Design Team: Why Me?

Author: Jan Monroe

Series: Design Team 5

Rating: P.G.

Codes: PT, K7

Summary: Harry comes home to Voyager and Voyager goes home.

Disclaimer: Paramount owns the Star Trek Universe. I own my story. I just took the characters out to play. It's all in fun, not for profit.

Warning: None really, some sexual references.

Thanks: I have several thank you I need to make. My beta readers, Lesa and Summer. have been wonderful about helping me. A special thank you goes out the PJ in NH. She makes sure that my stories are readable.

Why Me?

Copyright by Jan Monroe, July 1998

This was one of the hardest speeches that Kathryn Janeway had ever had to make. The packages that everyone had dreamed of had come but they weren't packed by family but by someone else's family. She was grateful that the Robeshaws had volunteered their time and efforts for her crew. She was planning to write each a personal letter and a letter for their official records praising their willingness to go above and beyond the call of duty for the fellow Starfleet crew.

Neelix was going to start handing out packages after lunch. Dinner tonight in the mess hall was cold fruit and anything the crewman wanted up to 4 rations.

Another problem was trying to explain the deal that Harry and Tuvok had made. Two years of service for four crew members was a small trade to make according to the design team; however the rest of the crew might not feel the same way. The problem of the deal being nullified if the design team didn't finish in time was stressful.

The Captain had paced her ready room for over an hour trying to think of just the right thing to say. She took a deep breath, straightened her shoulders and gave herself a pep talk. They had lived and worked together for over six years. *We can handle this* she keep telling herself. She marched out and gave the order for a ship-wide announcement.

"To all Voyager crew members. I know that you all have been waiting for news. We have 24 new crewmembers. Most of them are engineers but due to our cross training over the years that means that most departments will get help. As you can imagine, engineering will need the most help to speed the conversion of Voyager to a slipstream vessel." She paused and looked at Tuvok.

"Mr. Tuvok and Mr. Kim have negotiated with Starfleet Command. I will post a copy of the pact they signed for us. The deal is simple really but it has a catch. Harry Kim promised his own, Lieutenant Paris', Lieutenant Torres', and Seven's services as a design team for two years and the completion of a design project in exchange for concessions from Starfleet Command. He was able to obtain freedom for former Maquis crew members and a chance to stay in Starfleet if they desire. Before anyone complains about the deal, Mr. Kim set the terms, he struck a hard bargain but one that the Design Team has agreed to uphold. The design team has assured me that two years of service is a small price to pay." She paused again. Next came the hard part.

"Starfleet Command did several things that we did not anticipate. They declared the Kes as a classified vessel. They didn't want anyone trying to discover how the Kes made its spectacular voyage or take the chance that the slipstream technology to get into the wrong hands. We all know about the war with the Dominion. The most important implication for us is that Command edited our letters home. All mention about our being home soon and our care packages were edited out. The good news is that we do have care packages. Volunteers took the lists of request and filled the orders. I know that this is not exactly what we wanted but it is more that I could have hoped for considering our new propulsion system is classified as 'need to know.' Neelix will call in each person, one by one, to receive your care package."

"To all new crew members, Voyager may have started out with two crews, one Starfleet and one Maquis but now, we are one crew. There will be no disparaging remarks. The EMH has been active since we left the alpha quadrant. He is a member of the crew. Treat him with the same respect that you treat any other member of this crew. That will be all." She had finished. The Doctor had reported the remarks made about Paris and Chakotay in sickbay the day before. She had hoped to prevent any more complications.

Neelix had sent her a list of how the care packages were to be distributed. He was going to start with the Beta shift, then the Delta shift, and finally Alpha shift, after each shift ended. He was planning to deliver the kids' packages to the mess hall after their dinner so that the adults could watch them open their presents. The Captain knew that she planned to be there.

Tom had planned to just pick up the material that he needed to study for the exams but his morning was spent in sickbay, treating digestive problems. Although Lena had sworn that she had warned the new crew members about Neelix's cooking, over half of them had needed aid. An added complication was that one of the new crew members was a doctor. That wasn't really a problem except that she refused to be treated by Tom. Doc was not amused by this defiance of the Captain's orders. The new doctor waited for two hours before admitting defeat and agreed to be treated by Tom.

"I may not have started out this trip with the idea of being a Doctor but here I am." Tom commented while taking care of the Dr. Kent.

"You are not qualified to work in this sickbay," she stated.

Doc couldn't take this disrespect any longer, "How would you know? You haven't seen his credentials."

"Pilots don't have medical credentials," she stated.

"Mr. Paris is more than just a pilot. He is fully qualified to be here. I have not seen your credentials as yet. I am the Chief Medical Officer on Voyager. I have to accept your credentials before you can practice medicine here," Doc stated. "With all the work lately, I don't believe that I will be able to get to it for three, four weeks."

"You would rather work with a stupid convict than with a qualified Doctor?" she asked.

"I know exactly what Mr. Paris can do in an emergency. I have my doubts about your abilities. You have violated the Captain's orders. Mr. Paris is due the same respect as you would accord to any other member of this crew. If you make another remark, I will have no hesitation about putting you on report," the doctor threatened.

The next comment was a out of left field. Tom decided to break into the battle of wills before they got to the point that they couldn't work together. Dr. Kent was laying on the biobed, looking like she was pouting. Doc had his most displeased expression on his face. Tom broke in, "Doc, what do you want me to study? Remember, I want to get this test done before the wedding,"

"Yes, please do study, the materials are in on the desk. By the way, do you know what the sickbay on the new ship will be like?" Doc asked.

"No, we are going to go over the specs at lunch. Harry and Seven were going to compare the new ship's specs to the Kes. We may luck out and only have to make a few changes," Tom told him. They were both ignoring Dr. Kent, now looking even more like a spoiled brat than before.

"Are you going to plan to finish the design before the wedding?" Doc asked, slightly annoyed. He wasn't sure that three weeks was enough time to study for the board exams and five years of new medical developments.

"Doc, I know you want me to take more time with the exam but if I put if off until after the wedding, I'll be a nervous wreck. Consider how I did my trauma surgery practical, as fast as possible seems like a good idea," Tom half-joked.

"You saved Mr. Baytart's life. I'm sure that you would rather have practiced on the holodeck before doing your first major multiple organ surgery. I would have also had preferred that, but as the Captain has commented several times, 'We're Starfleet, weird is part of the job.'" the doctor quipped. "You do what you have to do."

"Leave the jokes to me, Doc. I have to go and see what my new job is going to be . . . like I needed a new job," Tom tried to joke. The problem was that more than his life was riding on this project, B'Elanna's and Seven's were, too. He loved B'Elanna. He cared about Seven because Harry is like a brother to him.

Tom ran to the mess hall with as much decorum as he could muster. He was exactly two minutes early. Harry and Seven already had their trays. Lunch appeared to be pasta with Alfredo sauce. Neelix usually considered it too bland but those Starfleet people had delicate stomachs. B'Elanna met her fiancé in line. The mess hall was filled with new crew members.

Lena tapped a glass to get everyone attention. "I've just finished reviewing your records. I noticed that you were asked to go on a mission with no question asked with only the reassurance that it was not a suicide mission. I will now give you the briefing that you should have received before coming on board.

"This is Voyager. This ship and a Maquis vessel were kidnaped by a alien known as the Caretaker. We have been traveling homeward ever since. Seven years together means that we have had to work out our differences. Our solution involved an attitude adjustment. 'We don't care where you started. We only care what you do here.' We are not going to change that and you will have to learn to live with it. You are here to work on converting Voyager from standard warp to a new propulsion system called slipstream. The rules to stay out of trouble are simple. Follow regulations. Every crew member on this ship has worked on the shuttle that you arrived on. Starfleet may have deemed the project classified but everyone on Voyager knows about it, including the six-year-old."

"This ship has been so far away from standard supply lines that we have replicator rations. Please remember that you have to budget your weeks' rations. There is no borrowing against next weeks'. If you lose them in poker games or at pool, they are gone. Credits have no value here but rations do." Lena looked around to find Neelix, "I have warned you about the food, remember that you have to have rations to eat replicated food."

"You have your own quarters and you will find your work assignments on the terminal in your quarters. Doc had contacted me about medical problems. Tom Paris is qualified to do everything in sickbay. Forget everything that you have heard about him. We trust him with our lives. If you don't, don't get sick."

"I told everyone to go easy with the unfamiliar food. That wasn't a joke. Doc ratted on you. Half of you here had problems with breakfast. Beware, lunch today is fairly bland and at dinner you have the opportunity to select what you want with four rations on the house but remember this is the last time. By the way, the long table with the eight chairs and highchairs is my table. It's by invitation only at dinner time. Usually these are working dinners. That's it, return to your activities," Lena went to the end of the line.

Tom was gratified that Lena had expressed so much trust in his abilities. He and B'Elanna walked to Harry and Seven's table. "Should we start talking about the new design while we eat or after?"

Seven handled out information padds. Seven hadn't even let Tom and B'Elanna sit down before she started. "We made a comparison between these Specs and the Kes. The major areas of departure are the housing requirements, the cloaking device, the transporters, and the medical area as Tom had suggested earlier. Using the Kes as a template, we should be able to make the modifications without changing to outer hull design. We also reviewed the weapons and defense requirements and found them inadequate. I wrote the new specs. We used the Borg multiphasic shields and doubled the power to the phasers using a new design from the Alpha Quadrant."

"Alpha Quadrant phasers?" Tom asked. Picking up his fork.

"I read a lot on the trip home," Harry admitted.

"I'm not surprised," B'Elanna joked. "All those long nights, all alone with noting to do but sleep must have been hard."

Harry blushed. He knew that his new living arrangement with Seven was going to draw comments but he knew better than to leave opening like that with Tom or B'Elanna. They were his best friends but they both loved to tease him.

Tom took pity on Harry and asked, "Do we need to do anything about the outer hull?"

"According to the specs no, but I would ask Butler about it. We may be able to work the metallurgy to increase the hull durability since he will not have to worry about the mass as a major consideration," Harry answered.

They continued to talk. Quent was setting at a nearby table listening. The design team had torn apart the admiral's specs and called most of the systems inferior to the Kes'. The crewman on KP had come and picked up their trays for disposal and they continued. The meeting continued through three rotations of diners. At 12:45, Naomi, Nick and Peter came in for lunch. Naomi grabbed her tray and immediately turned to Uncle Tommy. She always liked sitting with him and Aunt B'Elanna. She put her tray in from of him and he out of habit reached down and pulled her on to his lap.

Quent was amazed to see the design team discuss a secret project in full view of anyone that came in and then on top of it all to include a child was inexcusable. A child had no business sitting with them. He stood and walked over to the team's table. "Children are not allowed in meetings," Quent stated.

Naomi looked behind her at Uncle Tommy, "Do I have to leave?"

"No Love, keep eating. He just wants us to stop working." Tom quipped, deliberately antagonizing the Lieutenant Commander.

"No, I want you to get rid of the kid," Quent stated bluntly.

"Sorry, Naomi is my long time dining companion. We may be designing for you but you better learn now, we do it our way. Get used to it. You are here to approve spec changes and take up space," Tom stated. "We have our own lives and we are not putting them on hold for you or anyone else."

"We will see what the Captain says about your insubordination." Quent quickly turned and left the mess hall.

"Was that a good idea?" B'Elanna asked. "You obviously antagonized him."

"Not really but he needs to know that we are people not just a piece of equipment. We do things our way because it works for us. We can't let him come in and disrupt how we work together. It will slow us down on this project and will make the two years afterwards . . . " Tom drifted off. He wanted to finish the thought but Naomi's presence prevented him. He knew that she would learn how to use "Colorful Explicatives" some day but she would not hear them from him.

B'Elanna and Harry nodded. They knew that people like Quent could make life difficult and sometimes impossible. Declaring the team's independence from the start may not have been the most diplomatic way to handle the problem but it would save them from more problems later. Seven did not understand but was willing to let the subject drop. She made a note to herself to ask the Captain about it later.

"Now, back to work," Tom declared.

They continued working for two more hours. After Naomi finished her lunch, Anderson took her for afternoon lessons. They finalized the specs before breaking for the day. Harry and Seven were supposed to have the day off and they went off to enjoy an afternoon in the holodeck. Lena had informed them that the children would receive their packages at 1900 in the mess hall. The volunteer who had packed their care packages had individually wrapped each item. Neelix had been pleasantly surprised to find notes attached to each large box. "This package is of toys, the gifts are wrapped for the children's tearing pleasure. Please, have Lena take pictures. I want to see them when you get back. The other box is of clothing and the newest children books." It was signed MR.

Quent was not happy with the conversation he had with Captain Janeway. "Mr. Paris is insubordinate," Quent stated.

Janeway smiled, "Do you think this is news?"

"I want him on report. His attitude is . . . "

"No, he already has enough going on in his life. Being on report would interfere with his duties," she interrupted.

"He cannot be allowed to continue on with his attitude," Quent stated.

"He isn't that bad. Just don't hit his buttons and he is one of the easiest members of this crew to get along with. By the way, what happened?" Janeway asked. She was upset that this bureaucrat was in her office, taking up her time, complaining about Tom. Tom could be a pain at times, but outright insubordination was not his style.

"I told him to get rid of the kid and he refused. That was a direct order."

"First thing you better learn right now, Tom loves the children on Voyager and will never reject a child for anything short of an attack. You can give all the orders you want but he won't do it," she stated. Tom was remarkably predictable. He was a protector. He just naturally protected those smaller, younger, or weaker than himself. This tendency also resulted in long stays in sickbay healing from wounds. It also made him the perfect babysitter.

"He was working on the specs for the new vessel. They were bending regulations by having the meeting in the mess hall but to include a child is . . . " He searched for the right word.

"Nothing new," Janeway completed the thought. "When the team was designing the Kes, Seven was bringing Nick, Lena's baby, to all the meetings. It was quite a sight. Tom wearing Nick in a baby sling, the team sitting on the floor around that coffee table. It had to be 04:30. Tom even wore Nick whilentalwas giving orders on the bridge. You wanted the team to design your new craft. My suggestion is to approve the new specs when you get them and to get out of the way."

"No design team can handle that kind of freedom," Quent stated pompously.

"They know what they have to do, how to do it, and when it needs to be done. I trust them. They work best when they are left alone. Don't get to full of yourself or your rank. You are working with four experts in their fields and one of their fields is design. Tom, Harry, and B'Elanna designed a shuttle that went warp 10. The craft worked even if the experiment failed." Janeway stated. She did not need him or his attitude. She knew his type. They got people killed with incompetence and self-righteousness.

"I demand that he spend time in the brig."

"Forget it. I can't spare him for you private revenge. He has too many jobs and too much is happening to even be relieved of duty for 24 hours. If you don't like it, send a message to Starfleet Command. They should get it in, say 15 years after we get home. Now I have work to do, dismissed." Quent left without protesting. Janeway didn't even know what to do with him. He seemed to think that his rank meant that he could order around the senior officers on Voyager. He wasn't even in the line of command, just an outsider who was trying to grab power.

Tom spent the rest of the day going over the specs and making all the modifications that the team had decided on. Their specs would make the ship safer and faster than the originals. Part of the problem with the specs was that they were using only Alpha Quadrant technology while Voyager used an eclectic mix of Alpha and Delta Quadrant equipment. That was really what the Kes was--a mix of equipment that worked together.

The specs were ready for approval at 1800. He was glad. That meant that Tom could spend tomorrow at the helm rather than doing design. Both were fun, but flying would always be his first love.

Neelix had been working hard giving out all the packages to their owners. Although the packages were of requested items, the contents were still a surprise. B'Elanna had been surprised by her package. Someone had made requests for her. It didn't take long to figure out that Tom had asked for the stuff in the package. Her package had a real hard covered book of Klingon love poetry. The other things were of stuff that he had heard her complain about missing over the years like a current issues of her favorite magazines and a bottle of her favorite perfume. The replicater just didn't make it right. She wasn't sure if she should be happy at Tom's thoughtfulness or angry that he asked his sister to get things for her. What kind of sister-in-law asks for favorers before they had even meet.

Neelix's own package was filled with small bottles of spices and data chips of cookbooks. Doc even got a package thanks to Tom. Doc received copies of the latest operas and sheet music. Doc was amazed by the gift. Mr. Paris despised opera and complained loudly when Doc sang it in his presence. Included in Doc's package was the graduation gift for Tom that he had specifically asked Ensign Kim to obtain.

The Captain was thrilled with her package. Harry had commented that her package was the only one that had actually been filled by a family member. Her mom had been one of the volunteers. It had a large supply of Columbian Blend. It also had a small supply of 14 other blends. All of the beans were sealed awaiting grinding. The Captain suddenly found herself feeling like little Katy on Christmas morning.

Tuvok had loaded the personal messages into the computer message system and personal messages were waiting for most of the crew. After opening her package Kathryn started listening to her messages. One was from Phoebe and talked about her life with her children and husband. She also talked about what had happened to mutual friends, and brought Kathryn up to date all the best gossip. The letter from lso mom was different to say the least. Harry must have said too much.


I hear from that nice ensign of yours that you are happy and healthy. He even claims that you eat two meals a day. Doctors' orders and a considerate first officer make sure that you are not going to forget to eat too often. I saw the pictures of you and your First Officer. Did you know that the crew has had a betting pool going on about you and him for four years.

Really dear, don't you think that you should make a move. Your not getting any younger and I'll bet from how Harry talked about Chakotay that he would be a good father. I know, motherly right, I have the right to try and talk you into giving me a grandchild or two. I know that in this modern age that mothers aren't supposed to care about such things but . . .

I took Harry shopping for your care package. I haven't had that much fun since you and your sister were in high-school and we were going shopping for school clothes. Harry told the most amazing jokes about your cook's coffee substitute. One batch he called tar with caffeine. I bought you as much coffee and I could fit into the weight limit.

I spoke to . . . The letter continued on from there. Part of Kathryn was so happy to see what her mother wrote in the message the other part was a bit peeved at Harry for telling so many secrets. Her mother had aged since she had last seen her. She had started with simply "Kathryn." A sure sign that her mother hadn't known how to start but the letter relaxed from there. It was only the second message in seven years. So much time had passed and the uncertainty about how much the other person had changed caused some nervousness at first then she went back to being Mom. Mom talked for over an hour.

The secrets about her and Chakotay were harder to explain. They had flirted and did a relationship dance more intertwined then Tom and B'Elanna's had been, just in private. The problem was that if they had been free and stationed almost anywhere but a ship, she would have been dragging him towards a bedroom within weeks of meeting him. The way they met made it harder. He started as the enemy that she needed to help get her crew home, he turned into a co-worker who was kind and considerate and then . . . She didn't know when he had become essential to her life. He was her emotional pillar of strength, a confidant but the line that separated them had grown smaller and smaller. If they ever got home, losing him would be devastating. She did have to figure out what exactly they had.

The children's care package party was in full swing when Doc arrived. He had heard that it was the social event of the week, rather like a birthday party. Someone had gathered spare rations and replicated a yellow cake. The glasses were filled with fruit juice and Naomi was asking, "Can I start now?" She repeated her question every thirty seconds.

Neelix entered, he carried three care packages. "Alright, where are the kids?"

Naomi started hopping up and down while Lena and Seven searched the floor for Nick and Peter. Lena found Nick trying to climb up Chakotay's leg. Peter was harder to find. He was playing in the forest of adults' legs. He thought that Seven was playing a simple form of tag with him so he was hiding from her. She finally caught him and they gathered the children on the quilt.

Neelix opened one care package and handed Naomi a brightly wrapped box. She quickly tore into the wrapping to discover a beautiful Ktarean doll in traditional dress. It looked like some of the pictures that her mom had of her grandmother in the Alpha Quadrant. The next gift went to Peter. He had watched Naomi and knew exactly what to do--rip off the paper. He discovered a set of bath toys, rubber ducks, and tug boats. He loved the duck since when he squeezed it made an annoying squeaking sound. Nick's enthusiasm was so cute. He didn't care about the toy which was an teddy bear. He was more interested in shredding the wrapping paper. He then moved on to shred all the other wrapping paper, barely noticing the toys.

The kids took a half hour to unwrap all the packages. The floor was a disaster area but the kids were surrounded by toys. At the bottom on Nick's box was a letter addressed to Lena. She opened it, started reading and laughed. She started to read it out loud.

Dear Coz;

Nice to know you are alive. Harry showed me the kids' pictures. Cute.

Normally, you would owe us big time for volunteering us for the care packages but considering that you just wanted one person to go shopping, you are off the hook. Starfleet Command owes us, not you. The family vote should let you off with only three hundred hugs owed.

I know how soon you should get home. Be prepared, our reality may have changed but the family is still family.

Love, Mitch.

"Will he really demand hugs in return for the care packages?" the Captain asked.

"No, Mitch is joking. He's the person that used to let me read his old textbooks when he was home from the academy. The family vote is actually the family reunion, he is trying to warn me that the family had grown, a lot," Lena was all smiles.

The Captain had to ask, "How much is 'a lot'?"

"Forty members, we are in a growth phase right now." The Captain laughed, growth phases, a growth phase? . Then it dawned on her why Lena had adjusted to life on Voyager so well. Creating a huge family was just second nature to her.

As they were talking, Keith and Neelix had started cleaning up the mess the kids had made. The party continued well after the kids were taken home and put to bed.

"Captain, I need to discuss something with you," Seven started.

"Sure, walk with me," Janeway countered. They started towards the turbolift. "What is wrong?"

"Today Lieutenant Commander Quent and Lieutenant Paris argued. Tom made several demands. I do not understand why B'Elanna and Harry did not speak up," Seven stated.

"Quent was trying to tell you how to design the new vessel. His job is to approve or disapprove the specs. He had no right to try to tell you how to work or interfere with your work. He was trying to take authority that he didn't have. Tom was making his position clear, the design team will do its job and Quent is to do his, not get involved with yours," the Captain explained.

"He is of superior rank," Seven argued, she was clearly confused.

"Yes, but he is not in your direct line of command. You obey the people on Voyager that you have always obeyed. Don't worry about him. You are a civilian and he doesn't have the right to order you to do anything. You obey the orders of Chakotay, Tuvok, and myself because you know that we have more experience and usually know what is best for the crew." The Captain opened her door and they went in.

"I do not understand the command structure now," Seven stated, hugging herself. She did not like be uncertain.

"Voyager's command structure had not changed. Quent is not assigned to Voyager. He is only here for the designs. He cannot give orders. He knows it but wants to anyway. The only time that you have to follow his orders is back at Starfleet Command," Janeway explained. The new additions to the crew were going to cause many people to have to adjust but Seven only had to adjust to them being here, not them giving orders. "If you don't know if you should follow his orders ask anyone of the command staff. We will help guide you through this change."

Seven smiled then, she had a procedure to follow. Seven wouldn't readily admit it but she still needed procedures except when she was with Harry. With him, she knew exactly what to do. "Thank you, I will do as you say if I have need."

"How do you like being a Janeway?" Kathryn asked.

"I feel no different from before. What changes should I make?" Seven asked.

"None, really. I informed the Chief Medical Officer as regulations required." Janeway told her, "your only change is from now on, Chakotay will be assigning you shifts uslloithe designation of 'Janeway, Elizabeth' rather than 'Seven.'"

"Yes, Captain. I must return to my quarters. Harry will begin to worry," Seven stated.

"Why would Harry worry?"

"Earlier today, one of the new crewmembers made unwelcome advance in Harry's presence. I rebutted his invitation but Harry did not believe that the crew member was convinced," Seven told her. The crewman had scared her badly at the time.

"If he tries anything you are to report to me as soon as it happens," Janeway ordered. Harry would keep her safe while they were together, Janeway planned to talk to Chakotay about her work assignments to keep a familiar crew member close by.

She sent Seven back to her quarters and called Tuvok. Harry had reported the incident to security. The crew member who was aggressive with Seven was detained by security for several hours. He had been convinced the leave Seven alone with a few relevant facts, she was the Captain's daughter and she was co-habiting with a Starfleet officer. Chakotay assigned him delta shift and as far away from astrometrics as the confines of the ship would allow.

Several of the new crew members had spoken to Tuvok about Seven's loyalty. His response showed just how much time he had spend with humans. It was definitely taken from Tom Paris' most sarcastic mode. "I know her loyalties. Yours however are totally unknown." Tuvok was learning sarcasm from the master. Tuvok would never admit it but since he had been like a father to Seven, he viewed the question of her loyalty as a question of his own.

Seven was happy when she returned home. Harry was here. The mission had shown her just how large a part of her life he was. He had been there since the Doctor had started removing the Borg implants, they had shared sickbay. Later, they had worked on astrometrics together. They made a great team who had worked together on many projects. Even when they had not been together she had always known where he was. If she needed him, he would always be there for her. They had been friends and he had always been a fixture in her life, even before the relationship had advanced to be sexual. When he was gone, it was like a part of her was gone.

Harry was in the shower. She weighed her options and decided that her best course of action was to join him in the shower. Neither of them got a full night's that night sleep but no one complained.

Tom sent the revised specs to Quent for approval. Tom was scheduled for a full shift of bridge duty.

B'Elanna was implementing her newest plans. She didn't mind having to work in twelve new crewmembers in engineering. Three full shifts and five special teams to work on the conversion. The structural reinforcing was in place for the most part but some areas couldn't be reinforced until the proper materials were received from Starfleet. The teams were to work on their check lists of what to do. She planned to spend the morning doing routine repairs.

Harry reported to his duty station on the bridge with 30 seconds to spare. He looked like he hadn't brushed his hair. When Tom saw it, he smiled, it looked like Seven had deliberately run her hands through his hair. Not as lasting a marking as a bite scar but still an effective means of marking her territory. Tom wondered if Seven even realized why she had done it.

Seven spend the first hour of the shift in astrometrics. She set-up the equipment to signal her if objects changed their relative position to Voyager and went to engineering to help with the conversion.

Quent spent the morning reading the new specs. Borg shields, new phasers, a laser cannon, transverse bulkheads and a strange internal coating and wiring system on the underside of the outer hull. The specs for sickbay were also changed radically with Paris-Seven II surgical biobeds. It also was twice the size of the standard sickbay for a craft of its size. The slipstream engines stayed the same sized but the power supply for the shield, structural integrity fields, and weapons system was twice the size it had been on the Kes. Someone had even added a system called astrometrics. Some of the changes were just too radical. No one could keep a ship with this many competing technologies running properly.

Quent contacted Chakotay to arrange a design team meeting. Janeway had been specific about his role on Voyager. Quent had not bothered reviewing the service records of the design team until after his meeting with Janeway. Her daughter was on the team. He couldn't help noticing the other team members had received multiple letters of commendation. Paris had nineteen, including one for catching a spy. From the Captain's notes, Quent wasn't sure how Paris had lived through that mission. It looked suicidal to him. Torres was praised endlessly about her amazing engineering abilities. She also had several reprimands for losing her temper. Kim was usually praised for courage under fire. Seven didn't have a service record as such. Her records were under a Captain-only seal.

The design team was not entirely pleased when Chakotay informed them of their meeting with Quent after lunch. Tom and Harry's lunch replacements would just stay on until the meeting was over.

The meeting started out on the wrong foot with Quent declaring the specs unacceptable.

"Why?" Seven asked.

"You have four different sources for the technology competing for attention. The sickbay is too big and what are astrometrics?" Quent ganged all of his complaints.

"The specs are for a ship that can do what you want. We know that we have multiple sources of technology but they are compatible. The systems are not that hard to learn." B'Elanna stated, thinking that Quent was underestimating engineers.

"The sickbay was designed specifically for your stated task. Rapid assault crafts usually end up picking up the wounded. The sickbay is designed to handle the causalities. Since internal space is not a problem, I made it big enough to handle the job." Tom added to B'Elanna's statement. "By the way, we cannot structurally make the ship any smaller unless the Federation has anything stronger than Cariron composite."

"No, Cariron is the strongest moldable composite we have," Quent admitted.

Seven joined the fray, "Astrometrics tracks space up to 4 times further than standard sensors. We are working on expanding that to 6 times. You stated the mission of the craft would include reconnaissance. Astrometrics increased that capacity by almost 500 percent."

The meeting continued for more than six hours as the team pushed Quent into accepting all of their changes. The most advanced specs ever to come out of Admiral Smyth's office were demolished as not being advanced enough. The new craft would be more than an assault craft but have a multitude of uses in war and peace. It was faster, scanned farther, was more heavily armed than most starships, and did it on about a fifth of the energy usually needed by a craft that size with a crew of ten to run the ship. The medical teams would be constitute additional personnel.

One of advances that shocked Quent was the coating-wiring system on the inside of the outer hull. It was something that the metallurgist had been working on. It turned the energy from an enemy's energy weapons like phasers into a current that was feed into a battery system. Not only did it stop most of the damage done by the energy it turned that extra energy back for use on the ship. It was still experimental but even if it only took half of the power away then it was well worth the trouble to build and maintain. Anyone that had ever been to war could enjoy the poetic irony of turning an enemies weapons back upon them. It was a last ditch safety measure, hopefully never to be used but it did make survival easier. That was what this craft was built for--survival. Almost every system was to keep people safe in an inherently unsafe situation.

The meeting broke up when Tom started gathering his padds, "I don't know about anyone e fun but I am in need of dinner. Since Neelix stop serving in five minutes and I don't have any replicator rations left until pay day, I need to get to the mess hall now."

"Tom, Tom, Tom, have you been gambling away your rations again?" Harry asked jokingly.

"No, Neelix had five days of leola root as the main ingredient. I couldn't stomach it. The last four days of that I used my rations. Too bad you missed it, I'm sure that you would have loved it," Tom half explained and half joked. "Want to go play pool and lose some rations?"

"What makes you think that I'll lose?" Harry asked.

"It's pool, Harry. I know you. The only way you will win is if we change games." B'Elanna and Seven laughed in the background.

Harry decided to change the subjected to a slightly less humiliating one, "what are you going to tell the Captain about the designs?"

"Specs approved. We'll need a week off from our regular duties after the conversion and the wedding to complete the designs. I'm going to send out the specs to our other experts and let them get a head start on us this time. We'll put it all together during that week. The best news is that the hull and most of the internal systems are already designed. The week for the whole team should be sufficient to put it together , I'll need an extra two weeks after that to complete the documentation," Tom, turned to Quent who was walking behind them, "Do we need to do a holographic mock-up?"

"No. Command will want to do their own testing of the design," Quent answered. This was getting stranger by the minute. Paris was planning to spend three weeks on the design. He was planning on the rest of the team to work for one week. If they worked this fast on this project what could they do on a huge project like the newest class of generational ships. Paris was the unofficial leader of the group, they followed him, rank didn't seem to have anything to do with it. He was just the leader of the team.

"Any assignments?" Seven asked. Tom usualljStinded out assignments after the meeting for things to be done before the next meeting.

"Are you going to make any changes to the astrometics equipment from what you have here on Voyager?" Tom asked.

"No, I have incorporated the newest modifications into the designs as modifications are made," Seven answered.

"Then no. B'Elanna doesn't need to change the engines. Tuvok and Rublala are working on the weapons systems. Until we know the exact power requirements for the weapons, B'Elanna can't design the enlarged power supply. The major changes are going to be made by Lena Williams on the interior. After Lena finishes with the interiors, you get to fit astrometric's equipment into the space provided. I'm doing sickbay, but not until after the exam," Tom ticked off the assignments meant for others.

"What exam?" Quent asked. This was the first that he had heard of any testing or exams.

"The medical board exams. Doc is determined that I take the tests before we return to the Alpha Quadrant. I have some studying to do, but the test shouldn't be that big a deal," Tom commented with a flash of his old cockiness back. After the trauma surgical practical, tests were now just a waste of time and energy as far as Tom was concerned. He had lived through a baptism by fire in medicine.

The following weeks were busy and productive. The conversion had only taken 19 days to complete. They were only two months ahead of schedule. The testing for the first hop was put off until after the wedding. The conversion was completed mid-shift the day before the wedding. The wedding preparations had been squeezed into spare moments by all the participants.

Tom had completed the exam with average results. Doc was convinced that Tom could have done much better if he had only spent more time preparing. He was now a full fledged Starfleet doctor. He was only spending one shift a week in sickbay due the new doctor being on board. Tom wasn't too upset by this. He would be the first to admit that he drove B'Elanna crazy while studying for the exam to anyone but to Doc or the Captain. He wouldn't admit to studying just to driving B'Elanna crazy. He was back to his first love--flying. Medicine was nice but it didn't compare.

Tom's bachelors party was scheduled to begin on holodeck 2 at 1900. Since Harry had spent so much time on the conversion, he had left the party preparations up to Neelix. The first time Neelix walked Harry through the program the morning before the party was a shock to Harry. Neelix had meant well and had proved the adage 'a little knowledge is a dangerous thing' correct. Neelix had researched bachelor's parties and decided to mix several traditions together. He mixed Orion Slave girls with a 1970s cliché bachelor's pad and real alcohol. The high point of the evening was to be a stripper who would entertain all and then try to drag off Tom for some private entertainment.

After the walk-through, Harry suddenly had a vision of his own death and B'Elanna's court martial. In his vision, the half-Klingon was crying, "I had to kill him."

Harry offended Neelix by eliminating everything but the food. He pulled up Sandrine's and added a few more waitresses and two more pool tables. He changed the real alcohol to synale. B'Elanna would kill him if Tom showed up for his wedding with a hangover. After Harry finished setting up a party, that wasn't guaranteed to get him killed, he shut down the program and left to get stuff ready for the wedding the next day. The wedding clothes were easy for him and Tom. They were wearing full dress uniforms. It wasn't the most enjoyable outfit but it beat spending two months of rations on a tux.

Neelix was determined that his favorite part of the party be included. After Harry left, he added his little bit back in.

The party started without a hitch. The synale flowed and the pool balls clicked. Every now and then raunchy questions were thrown at Tom. About halfway through the evening someone asked, "What's it like to lose your freedom?"

Tom's answer was simple. "I forget. She claimed me more than two years ago on Sakari 4. I haven't been free since then."

The party slid into a mellow evening of drinking and pool. The computer was playing Tom's favorite oldies and no one bothered to complain. They all knew it could be worse. He could be into opera. Doc even had a good time. He congratulated Tom and gave him his medical school graduation present. It was an old fashion doctor's bag carefully packed with modern supplies. It was a scaled up version of Tom's field medic kit with much higher powered equipment. In someways, it was a mobile sickbay.

Neelix had been hanging around the control panel for about ten minutes when a holographic dancer appeared on the pool table while Tom was lining up a shot. Tom looked up and yelled, "Harry! Are you trying to get B'Elanna to call off the wedding?"

"Tom, honest, I took that part of the program out. We both know that B'Elanna would have our heads on a platter if she heard about this." Harry practically flinched.

"Computer, delete the dancer," Tom called but nothing happened.

Harry went over to the controls and tried to manually delete it but Neelix had somehow embedded it in the program. The only way to turn off the dancer was to shut down the program.

Harry pulled the plug just as the dancer removed her g-string. He wasn't sure if he was safe from B'Elanna or Seven but this was his best option. The party goers were not happy when the entertainment disappeared but hearing Neelix throw a temper tantrum was almost as much fun. "How dare you turn off my part of the program. You have no idea how hard I worked on that program. According to the cultural data base no bachelor's party is complete without a female stripper who tries to lure the groom away from the bride . . . "

Harry stood there impassive. He had removed the stripper and restarted Sandrines. "Do you know what B'Elanna will do to us if we continued with that? She would start by killing you and me. If Tom is lucky, she will only hurt him! B'Elanna is the most possessive woman that I have ever meet."

Carey yelled from the crowd watching the argument, "I thought that was Seven. She must run a close second to Torres."

"She's been taking lessons from B'Elanna but she isn't anywhere near as bad as B'Elanna," Harry defended Seven; at least Seven wouldn't blame him for something that he didn't do. Seven had been a bit more clingy than usual since he had returned. He had found an old log entry that Seven must have left for him to find, no hacking needed. She had fumed and cursed him for leaving her. The entire entry, over a hour, was directed at how he didn't have a right to leave her for that long. Harry had been angered that she would talk about him like that but then he started hearing the loneliness in her voice, and the fear that he might not return. Libby had never been that concerned for his safety.

The party broke up soon after. Tom was going to sleep on Tuvok couch. Tuvok had insisted, calling the separation on the eve of the wedding a much honored tradition.

B'Elanna's party went much smoother. The Captain had planned it with Seven for the mess hall. It was a cross between a traditional bridal shower and a bachelorette party. B'Elanna received a few gifts, each more sexy than the last. The last gift was from the Captain. It was the nightie that the Captain's mom had picked out. It had the appearance of modesty by being floor length, except that it was see-through with a few strategic areas decorated with denser lace.

B'Elanna wasn't sure wether to be happy about the gift or curious about who bought it. The Captain must have read the uncertainty in her eyes and absently volunteered, "My Mother had great taste. To hear Harry talk, you would think that she dragged him up and down the entire Californian coast."

B'Elanna was happy to hear that Harry hadn't actually bought it. She made some appropriate comments about how the thoughtfulness of the gift.

The girl's party lasted longer than the guys but then imaginary death threats were not apart of their party.


The next morning was just a nerve wrecking as everyone feared. The wedding was scheduled to start at 13:00 in the forward observation lounge. The lounge was not the biggest space on Voyager but it was one of the most beautiful. The wedding was to be simple. The Captain was dressed in her formal dress uniform to conduct the ceremony. Chakotay, also in dress uniform, was to walk B'Elanna down the aisle. Harry was the best man. Seven was to be the maid of honor. Seven was in a pale pink floor length dress with no lace. The simple dress enhanced her tall, slender body.

B'Elanna's wedding dress was ivory with only one discrete cut out in front. It was a trade off. She didn't want to wear white because it was the Starfleet tradition or the red dress with numerous cut outs was Klingon tradition. She wanted a dress that wasn't specifically one tradition or the other. She still had problems integrating the two different parts of her heritage. Not surprising, for most of her life people have tried to make her emphasize one over the other or to totally renounce one of the other. Tom, and then later the entire crew of Voyager, had recognized her as a valuable crew member.

The only non-essential member of the wedding party was Naomi. She was to be the flower girl. Mitch Robeshaw actually picked out the Naomi's flower girl's dress back on earth. It was very pale pink with three tiers of lace falling almost to the floor. The note with the dress said, "Remember to throw the petals." It was all Naomi had talked about for a week after her mom had unpacked it. The boys were also wearing Alpha Quadrant garb. They had cute little suits tailored to look like mini-tuxes.

Tom and B'Elanna opted for the traditional wedding ceremony. It was attended by all of the off-duty personnel. The ceremony was also shown on the communications channel usually reserved for Neelix and his moral show.

Harry had to admit that he was more nervous about it then Tom was. "Why aren't you nervous? You know that you are violating one of man's longest traditions. Grooms are supposed to be nervous."

"I had to talk B'Elanna into getting married. This is more of a relief than something to worry about," Tom commented. "I was nervous the day I asked her."

"I wonder if I will ever get to that point again," Harry commented rather than asked.

"Sure, You are too old fashioned for kids out of wedlock so you will end up married, to whom is the question," Tom answered. "You might not like being an admiral's son-in-law."

"Seven still has a lot of growing up to do until she is ready for marriage or kids." Harry stated.

"I had to grow up before B'Elanna would even go out with me," Tom replied. His emotional maturity wasn't as developed as he wanted people to think it was, especially at the beginning of their journey.

Harry laughed, remembering the carefree, arrogant, pilot that most people thought was a pain in the rump in the beginning. Gradually, Tom had let people in and let down some of his shields. Most crew members had modified their opinions of him as the years rolled by. Tom was going to have problems when they got back to Earth. Although he didn't acknowledge it, he depended on the emotional support system that the Voyager crew had built for each other. Harry knew that Tom would have to face insults on their new job and face his father. Harry privately thought that Admiral Paris was a jerk. He even passed judgement on his daughter-in-law-to-be before meeting her. He was offended by the Admiral actions not just because he thought of B'Elanna as a sister but to place limits on a relationship before you even began the relationship did an injustice to the others in your life.

Harry and Tom let the conversation lapse as they both started watching the clock. The wedding was to start in five minutes. Tom did seem to get slightly more nervous as the minutes ticked away.

They took their places before the Captain. The music started and Naomi came in and started down the aisle sprinkling her petals as she went. She was old enough to know this was a serious job. Chakotay escorted B'Elanna.

For Tom and B'Elanna the rest of the ceremony passed in a blur. The words were spoken and the rings exchanged. B'Elanna had been pleasantly surprised that Tom had wanted to wear a wedding band. He called the bands a cultural acceptable and highly recognizable way to mark their territory that was over four hundred years old. The only time that Tom really remembered later was the kiss and them leaving the room together.

The reception was set-up on holodeck one. The party started about a hour and a half before alpha shift ended so that all three shifts could come. The entire crew was invited to the reception buffet. The only request that Tom and B'Elanna made was that everyone wear civies. The food was prepared or replicated by Ship's Services. It was a display of the best of Alpha Quadrant food.

Dancing started soon after the party began. Tom and B'Elanna lead off the dancing to the song, Unchained Melody. The other couples soon joined in. About an hour into the dancing B'Elanna grabbed Harry. He went quietly out on the dance floor with her but she tell he was nervous.

"What's wrong Starfleet?" B'Elanna asked.

Harry thought that she looked like a cat ready to pounce on its prey. "Nothing, everything is fine."

"Would you like to tell me anything?" B'Elanna asked.

"Nothing. What do you think I . . . I would have to tell you?" Harry queried.

"I can see that I'll have to spell it out for you. Bachelor party, stripper, do I need to go on?" She had him and was playing with him before killing him. He couldn't get the cat analogy out of him mind. She was trying to worry him to death.

Harry decided to throw himself onto her mercy, "Neelix did it. When I saw what he had planned, I changed it, I really did. Neelix wanted Orion slave girls and lots of other stuff. I took it all out including the striper. I don't know how, but he added it back in. I stopped it as soon as I could."

"Did you think that I would blame you?" B'Elanna asked.

"No, not really. I didn't do it, so I can't be held responsible," Harry hoped logic and friendship would save him.

"Relax, I'm not going to kill you. I just want you to deliver a message to Neelix. If he ever sics a stripper on Tom again. I will rip out his liver and cut it up."

Harry breathed a sigh of relieved. Just a few death threats, nothing compared to what he had dreaded that she would do. "I'll tell him but I don't think that he will be programing any more strippers. The Captain wasn't amazed to hear about it. She has barred such entertainment unless everyone invited knows about it before hand."

They finished their dance.

The three kids were running around and playing games under the tables. They were suitably impressed by the long table with the presents on it. They knew presents.

The couple unwrapping the presents were fun to watch and sometimes a surprise to the giver. Because of the weight limit, several of the care package volunteers had pre-wrapped the gifts to save weight. The gifts ran the gambit from the sincere to the fun to things that children should not see. Tom looked inside the package, turned an appropriate shade of red and quickly hid it from the children. Harry gave them an antique silver picture frame that was waiting for their official wedding picture.

The party continued long after the bride and groom left. The new crew members who had not watched Tom and B'Elanna go through their trials didn't understand why this was such a big event. Quent had gone as far as asking Chakotay about it. The Commander had replied "Lieutenant Paris and Lieutenant Torres have worked to create a lasting relationship against both internal and external factors that have conspired to destroy their relationship."

Chakotay knew that Quent had read through the ships records, looking for any information about his design team. Tom had put the design project as a medium priority project, behind the conversion and the wedding. The team was more interested in the conversion than in designing right now. No one on board Voyager was surprised by the priorities. Getting Voyager home was the highest priority on the ship. The wedding was also a high priority. Not only did it raise moral, it reinforced the feeling of family among the old crew. The new crew members did not fit into the Voyager family as well as they could have. Most of the newly arrived engineers objected to B'Elanna being chief engineer, considering that she did not graduate from the Academy. Many had already been in his office complaining about her temper. Chakotay wondered what they would do if they had only been there when her temper was truly out of control.

Lieutenant Paris had only been called to engineering to calm her down twice during the conversion process. Both times he had removed her from engineering so that she could rest or eat. The engineering crew had even started leaving nutritious snack foods in her office. After seven years, engineering had finally figured out that if that a well fed chief engineer had few temper tantrums. A few were suggesting that the new snacking might have a different origin, like pregnancy, but Tom and B'Elanna would have announced that to the world as soon as they found out. Of course, it might be too early to start thinking along those lines.

Tuvok and Chakotay had even encouraged the engineering crews to call on Mr. Paris. He had a calming effect on her and he also had the ability of relieving her of duty for medical reasons. They had only had one show down about that ability. It was after the Hirogens had taken Voyager. They had tampered with almost every system on the ship and she was trying to get the ship back together. The ship was a disaster area. B'Elanna wanted to finish the shields but it was more than a one day job and she wouldn't stop working until it was done. She had been up and working for 30 hours straight. Carey had called Tom, hoping that Tom could talk B'Elanna into going to bed. Tom had talked, virtually pleaded with her but she refused to go. He finally used a fairly new and not yet tested weapon on her, the power as a medical officer to relieved her of duty based on sleep depravation. He hoped that just the threat would convince her to go but she refused and he lost his temper. Officially, as a member of the medical staff, he declared her unfit for duty until she had at least six hours sleep, preferably 8 to 10. He also stated that she was to be off duty for 12 full hours to rest and recover. She first ran to the Chief Medical Officer then to the Captain, demanding that she be returned to duty. She soon found that she was better off with Tom's solution. Doc relieved her for 24 hours to rest and recover from the crisis. The Captain backed Doc's sentence. The Captain had not liked Tom's tactics but considering the condition B'Elanna was in, he had few choices. B'Elanna was so tired that she could have endangered the ship. Tom had never used it on anyone else.

Tom had threatened to use it many times since but had only done so twice more. He intervened when he thought that she was going to work herself into a biobed in sickbay. She had done it before but he kept a close eye on her to prevent it from happening again. The fact that Tom had allowed himself to get it that condition at the end of the Kes' mock-up phases did not encourage Doc. Neither one of them had any sense of self preservation.

Harry and Seven stayed at the reception after the newly married couple left. Seven was just learning how to enjoy large gathering. She still didn't like the apparent chaos of the situation be she was beginning to be able to ignore it.

She had studied weddings and mating customs before becoming involved with Harry. She had to admit that reading about human customs and participating in one was quite different. She had spent the entire reception asking questions about why Tom and B'Elanna had made the choices they had. Harry could answer some but not all. He did make a decision right then if they got married to have a simple wedding with only close friends and family there. If everything went according to plan, they might be having their own wedding in four or five years.

He knew exactly how emotional mature Seven was. She was consistently operating like a sixteen- or seventeen-year-old teenager. It was like she had to move through all the stages of emotional development that she had missed as she physically matured. Her emotional maturity was going to take a huge hit when they got to earth. She had barely adjusted to the new crew members.

Lena, the Captain, Seven and Harry had a discussion about how to make her transition easier when they finally reached Earth. They decided on a strategy that was simple. They would see about moving the design team from headquarters into a small think-tank facility away from command headquarters. It would also get Seven an other closed environment where she could both work with the design team and the professionals to help her adjust. The idea was that she would be close to Janeway but could be introduced to the larger society slowly in manageable steps. Her adjustment was probably going to take several years. She was happy and comfortable on Voyager and they didn't want to disrupt her progress. Her comfort level had slowly grown over three years. She could interact effectively with a crew of 140, not so effectively with 165 however a Starfleet crew is nothing like a normal human society.

The honeymoon was a very short 24 hours. The Captain promised them a longer vacation after they had finished the inspection from the first hop. She wanted Tom at the helm of Voyager went the ship entered and exited the slipstream hops. Tom was finally back at the helm full time.

The problems knee later. The first hop was a great success. They calculated and found that they could add 4 more hours to each hop. Tom and B'Elanna had four days off before the second hop and the start of the of the design project.

Tom felt a definite sense of deja vu. He had been working on the bridge while they had been working on the last big design project. Now, he was on call for the entire time that they were in slipstream. Tom finally asked the Captain if they could use her ready room like they had in the past. She really didn't like the idea that the team's work was constantly being interrupted. She granted permission for the ready room. Actually, when they were working in there, she felt like a student again. The chatter of busy minds working to finish a project . . . It sounded just like students working on a project for the advanced design class. The difference was that the team wasn't just working on one system like the design class projects. They were doing it all.

The Captain rarely listened to the discussion but when she did, she was constantly amazed. The weapons systems that Tuvok had worked on were fine tuned to be more accurate using an interface with astrometrics. Seven used the equipment to track asteroids that might get too close to Voyager now but with a few modifications, it would increase weapon accuracy over longer distances. They were working to make the new vessel the ultimate hidden weapon. The theory that they seemed to be working under was that in slipstream the speed of the vessel dictated the other equipment needs. If the ship was in slipstream, then being able to target another vessel not in slipstream and fire without coming out of slipstream would be a huge technological advantage. The biggest part of that advantage was that the ship would be going so fast that the enemy would be unable to lock on to do major damage.

The sickbay was set-up with the new Paris-Seven II biobeds. Tom and Doc had taken the data that they had collected on the first biobed and made modifications to make the second even better. The technicalities of the changes were jargon even to her but Tom and Seven were working with it as if were simple addition. Very disconcerting to feel like an undergraduate level student listening in on graduate students when you are the Captain and their superior officer. They had no problems with the designs that the Captain had heard. She had been tempted to call in Quent to decode their jargon but decided against it, he might get ideas that he should participate.

The team did something that she had never seen them do . . . they went over the schedule time. All four team members had several new, inventive ideas that they wanted to include. Almost every system was reviewed and modified to be a warship. The Kes was designed as a light freighter and the conversion of that design to a war ship was easier than most people would think. The new ideas were usually about how to make the ship both safer and increase its fire power.

Quent was happy enough that the team was working on his project. He had asked the Captain if he could sit in on the meetings. This was an unusual situation. Since they were working in her work space, she had control of who was welcome. He wasn't. He got daily reports and Paris would send him the product of that days work. He had worked with other designers and found that they would produce about one system a month, sometimes, two months. They were finishing a system everyday, sometimes several a day. This was actually a misnomer. The outside experts had completed their work and all it needed was integrating into the rest of the ship. The experts worked to specs and their work was easy to integrate.

The work on the new ship, now nicknamed "Freedom," continued at its rather breakneck speed. The new ideas from the team added four days onto Tom's original schedule of one week. They jokingly blamed it on Tom being on call . . . his mind was not on creating a new craft. Of course, everyone convenient forgot that they were babysitting a colicky baby the last time they were doing this.

The rest of the design team returned to their regular duties but Tom continued on the documentation. Tom spent more than two weeks writing the reports. The whys, hows, wheres, and every tiny, at times almost insignificant detail had to be written into a report for their new boss, Admiral Symth, at Starfleet Command. Tom finished the documentation with two weeks of traveling remaining.

Tom couldn't help it. He missed his office. The new craft didn't have components like the Kes had scattered around but all the reports were overwhelming. At least in his office he could spread it out on the table in order and then systematically work through it. All the reports on padds dumped in a care package box in the corner of his quarters made writing the report longer than it needed to take. He spent more time than he wanted to admit searching for the right report and cursing the lack of space so he couldn't have an office again. The Captain and Lena Williams had been sympathetic but could not find him the space he wanted.

Voyager's last big hurdle was to cross Romulan space. Janeway had called a senior staff meeting to decide on a strategy a full two months before the danger area. The technology used in the slipstream engines was classified. The Romulans were traditional enemies of the Federation. They may be working with the Federation against the Dominion but that didn't mean that they should have access to the technology. She had expected a debate about going through the Romulans' territory. The senior staff was united.

Tuvok stated it sincerely, "We need to adjust the our plans so we can go through their space at slipstream. They have been allies of convenience before and I do believe that they are this time. We should not linger in their space."

Chakotay was simpler, "Normally, they hate the Federation. I'd rather not find out just how much in person. I know that we have no choice about going through but that done not make me feel any better about that leg of the trip. We have lucked out the last three months with no attacks. I would like to keep that streak going."

"I'll second that," Tom half-joked. When they were attacked, first he flow them out of danger and then he helped put people back together. He would rather practice his evasive maneuvering on the holodeck rather than in battle. 'Oh, how you have changed in the last five years,' he thought to himself.

The Captain smiled, "Work backwards, I want to come out of slip stream in a fairly isolated area, about 5 days if possible, no more than 10 days from Earth. Plan the slipstream jump to take us through Romulan space and to our destination. I want to a choice of destinations. Starfleet Command will likely want to tell everyone that we found an unstable wormhole that let us slip through just before it self-destructed. Areas should be selected that have the elements conducive for wormhole activity."

"Chakotay, have Seven go through the Starfleet star charts to find possible locations. After we pick one, Tom and Seven can plan a course," Janeway ordered.

The meeting broke up with the assignments given. Seven worked on the possible destinations for three days. The problem was finding a wormhole possible area that was deserted. Most were very active. She finally found two possibilities, one 8 days out and the other 12 days out. She knew that the second choice was not exactly what the Captain had wanted but those two areas of space were the only two to fit her first criteria.

Janeway picked the 12-day location because it was isolated but deep in Federation space. She then teamed Tom and Seven to plot the course they would take to their destination. The orders were to scan the area and plan a course that would take Voyager through as fast as possible but would avoid habited worlds, ships, and scanner nets. They worked for three days plotting a complicated course to avoid detection both by the Romulans and the Federation. It would add 12 more hours to the flight but it should be safer than coming too close to active areas. They had chosen a route that keep them skirting the borders as much as possible and crossing at one of the few thin areas of Romulan space.

The tension for the last hop was higher than anyone had anticipated. Just the mention of the Romulans caused fear in most of the crew. The old crew was just as nervous as the newer members. The old crew had fought the Borg but the traditional enemies were just as frightening.

They came out of slipstream early, three days outside of Romulan space. The next hop would take Voyager all the way through this last dangerous area. The had to wait two days at the exit point before proceeding. The tension of the crew grew with the delay, even though Janeway had made an announcement about strategy they were going to use. She had made a habit of informing the crew before they faced danger. The family feel of the crew had forced her to adjust her command style. She now informed her crew of what the command staff had decided and why. It was her way of building trust.

Tom was on the bridge for the entire 21 hours that Voyager took snaking through Romulan space. The course was programed into the helm but he wanted to be there if they needed to make any evasive maneuvers. The entire ship breathed a sigh of relief when Janeway announced they were now in Federation space.

No one was there to meet them when they dropped out of the last hop. Janeway ordered Harry to open a hailing frequency to any Starfleet vessel within range, "This is Captain Kathryn Janeway of the Starship Voyager. To any Federation ship, please respond."

Harry got a huge smile on his face, "I'm getting a response, Its Captain Talola of the Hawkings."

"Put her on screen," she ordered.

"This is Captain Talola of the Hawkings, did I hear you right? You are Voyager?"

"Yes, it's a long story but we just arrived in this system. We have to contact Starfleet Command," Janeway stated.

"Welcome home. Can we offer any assistance?" Talola offered. She couldn't get her eyes off Chakotay.

"No, we have a short trip to Earth from here," Janeway could see the joy and relief on the faces of the bridge officers. It was real. They were almost home.

The captains signed off. Janeway ordered Harry to make a ship-wide announcement. This was one of the happiest announcements that she had made in years. "To all crew members, we have arrived in Federation space. We are just 12 days from earth. We are in home space and will be planning family reunions."

The last 12 days of Voyager's seven-year maiden voyage ended when they docked at the main Federation space dock in orbit of Earth. Security officers met them with sealed orders for Janeway. The plans that they had created to pass off their arrival as fate, luck and an unstable wormhole was accepted. Only a very few people knew about the slipstream abilities of Voyager and engineering was to be locked down and only those who had worked in engineering would be allowed in or out until command could 'assess' the situation.

Now the work of homecomings was to began.

End Why Me.

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