Design Team: Construction Phase

Author: Jan Monroe

Series: Design team #3

Summary: Consturction begins and love blooms.

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

Note: The music that Harry played was the Concerto for Clarinet, composed by Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart. It is best known from the movie "Out of Africa."

Construction Stage

Copyright by Jan Monroe 1998

Tom smiled happily. The mock-up testing was done. He was off the metaphoric hook. Someone else got his old quarters-office. He was back to his jobs, flying his pretty Voyager and serving time in sick bay. Some of the testing that the Doc had set-up lately made him wish that he had never set foot in sickbay. One test was a simulation of an engine room explosion with seven people seriously hurt.

The Captain hadn't picked the construction chief yet but Tom really didn't care who was in charge. He wasn't it. His only participation in the construction was that he was going to build the helm controls. Doc had talked Seven into building the new Paris-Seven Biobed so that he could test it. The only problem Tom saw is that Doc might want to give up his new toy . . . piece of medical equipment . . . for the shuttle. Seven may have to build another one. *It was kind of nice to have a piece of equipment built to save lives named after you,* he thought.

He had finished the last report, gathered the last bit of data, badgered the last expert for her report. Williams was a wonderful mom, a good ship's councilor and keeps ships services running well even with all the other but her reports were always late. He had written the over all report that tied all the other reports and data together, then indexed it. Every piece of documentation was exactly what regulations called for, complete and over done. The person that took over the project would find that construction was the easy part. The documentation was the killer.

He hadn't gotten any emergency calls about the shuttle project in over two weeks. The freedom was exhilarating. He still wanted a long vacation, two or three weeks of B'Elanna and no work. He didn't even care if it was all spent on Voyager. The Doc was threatening to kidnap him for three weeks of duty in sickbay but Tom had talked him out of it so far.

He was flying Voyager on a quiet alpha shift. The Captain had ordered Ops and astrometrics to be on the look out for sources of raw materials. She was apparently hoping that they could find some of the minerals that they needed for the shuttle. They had been looking for three weeks but no luck so far. They had found several mineral rich planets but they were occupied with pre-warp civilization and off limits. Tom could understand why she wouldn't want to trade for the materials. Any trader would know that they were up to something, or see Voyager as a easy target, neither was an acceptable option.

"Captain. I'm picking up a solar system about 4 light years from here." Harry reported.

"Send the coordinates to Tom," She told Harry, "Tom, set a course, warp 7. Harry, as soon as we are in range, start a mineral work-up. Tuvok, scan for ships and any other sigh of life." She tapped her combadge, "Janeway to Seven."

"Seven," was the only response.

"Harry found a new system, do a full work-up as soon as we are in range."

"Acknowledged." Seven stated and signed off.

The Captain seat back in her chair, still trying to figure out who to put in charge of shuttle construction. If the new system worked out then she would have to put someone in charge. She keep trying to decide who could do it. The only candidate she had was Chakotay. She knew his regular duties were extensive at the best of time. She didn't want to over work him but he was the only one that could supervise such a large project that required authority over so many different department. On the bright side, she could always assign Tom to be Chakotay's assistant. She decided to inform Chakotay when he returned from his late lunch.

Two hours later she was in her office with Chakotay and the mineral reports. The system had nine of the major elements that they needed. No intelligent life lived in the system and the fourth planet was M-Class and had most of the minerals. They hadn't gotten into orbit yet so they hadn't been able to determine if they could land Voyager. That was her hope. It would give everyone shore leave, let B'Elanna work on the engines while they were safely shut down, and it would make mining and refining operations proceed faster. If they worked quickly while here, they should be able to fabricate the structural system before they left the surface.

As soon as they knew exactly what the planets surface was like, she would decide. The pros were obvious from here but the planet might not be best place to spend up to a month doing mining.

Chakotay did not take the news of his new assignment gracefully. He had watched Tom work himself into a sick bed for three days with a project just 10 weeks long. The construction phase was scheduled to go on for five months, twenty three weeks, according to Tom's last report. Every time he thought of it he would get more and more tired and he didn't even know what had been done yet. He hadn't been down to "Tom office" since before the shuttle mock-up tests were completed. He did vaguely remember a construction schedule on one of the walls. At the time he had commented on the inefficiency of the system but Tom had explained it. Each page was a specific job or set of related jobs that all had to be done at the same time and by the same personnel, and the jobs were all in sequence. Ship construction was very much a step by step process. He had noticed the schedule behind the desk, the items that Tom had completed were folded and sign the back. Definably old fashioned but it seemed to work for him. Chakotay decided to meet with Tom in Tom's office and review what was on the wall.

"Paris," Chakotay called as he came out of the Captain's ready room.

"Yes, Sir?" Tom responded. Hoping that he wasn't in trouble again, but he didn't remember doing anything that would bring down the commander's wrath.

"The Captain just put me in charge of the shuttle's construction. I need you to brief me on whatever you have done to this point." Chakotay sounded stressed.

"How about after dinner, say 2000?" Tom suggested. He was so happy, someone else was now responsible. The huge schedule of jobs, tests, inspections, and report writing was now officially off his hands. He also knew why Chakotay was out of sorts. It was a monumentally thankless job. It was an even bigger job than both the design and mock-up phases together.

"Fine," Chakotay replied, dreading to assignment, it was so much extra work that he didn't really have time to do.

Voyager achieved standard orbit 30 minutes before the end of the alpha shift. They started a planetary survey with an eye toward finding a shelter place near the mineral deposits to land Voyager. The survey continued until 0300 the next morning.

~~~

The meeting in Tom's office was actually much shorter than Chakotay had expected. All of the organization had been done. Each team member wrote the pages with requirements for their area of expertise. Although, Chakotay didn't realize it, the pages were in four different handwritings. Someone had even color coded the reports that he was to write and the reports that others were to write and turn into him. It wasn't the greatest system but all Chakotay had to do was follow it. His plan was to had an ensign go down there and copy everything on the wall onto a padd, then into the computer.

The next morning, the ensign that he had assigned to job can back with a padd full of information, even thought she had tried to copy it exactly as posted. Some postings were three pages long and the very length of the entries was making the spreadsheet unmanageable. The wall system was the easiest system available. Chakotay should have known, Seven would never have supported Tom's using the wall unless it was actually the fastest system.

Chakotay didn't like it but he would have to take over Tom's office. Tom had taken out all the items not related specifically to the shuttle construction. The only items that were removed were about twelve padds and the old schedule of the mock-up testing.

~~~

The morning staff meeting was moved to 1400. The Captain had been closeted in her office since the beginning of the shift with the geologist and metallurgist. They picked out the most appropriately landing place for Voyager related to mineral deposits.

They called in Tuvok about 1100 and then request that one of the staff bring back lunch for four when they returned from lunch. The choice of location was based availability of minerals, the need too hid the ship while on the surface and the climate of the areas. The hiding of Voyager was a major consideration. Voyager was most vulnerable to attack on the surface. The best defense was not to be easy to find.

They called in Chakotay at 1300. Plans were being made to begin fabricating structural elements for the shuttle.

The security plan for landing Voyager was simple. It uses four scuttles, three in orbit to provide communication links and warning, and another shuttle to mine the one of the three moons. Tuvok also suggested that all the children be implanted with homing devices. His reasoning was that children would be out with various adults and wondering off was a real concern.

The meeting was a wonderful surprise to the design team. B'Elanna, Tom and Harry all had visions of shore leave and vacation time. Real sunsets, endless landscape when you looked out a window and stolen moments standing on real dirt sounded heavenly to all of them. Harry knew that Seven need a vacation, even though she didn't know what a vacation was. He intended to teach her the splendor of time off and watching sunsets.

The ship wouldn't be landing until the next morning. The mining expert was putting together mining teams, gathering equipment and deciding strategies to get to the minerals. Over Voyager's years in the Delta quadrant, they had an impressive assortment of refining and modeling equipment that they had built over the years.

B'Elanna started her making preparations for several major repairs projects as well as starting the slip stream modification. Although they wouldn't have all the components they needed to go into slipstreams safely, the parts they did have, could be installed. It would speed the conversion process when the shuttle returned with supplies.

~~~

Tom always felt a thrill when he was landing Voyager on a planet surface. Voyager was the most gracefully handing craft, and it felt like it just gentle drifted into it landing area. Tom deftly maneuvered Voyager into the box canyon that Tuvok had chosen for it safety. Anyone attempting to scan from space would have to go exactly overhead to differentiate the ship from the mineral rich cliff surrounding it. Tom made a picture perfect landing.

Part of the Captain wondered if all this concern for security was necessary, but the axiom, better safe than sorry usually applied. Voyager had attracted too much attention as a high tech trophy for whoever can take it. A little paranoia was a good thing when discussing Voyager's safety.

The shut down procedures took until lunch. The mining crews had spread out over the planet, the refining equipment was set-up in temporary shelters at the rear of the canyon. Harry spent the rest of his shift helping with the equipment. Tom spent the day treating sun burn, and minor injuries. B'Elanna reorganized her engineering crew into two shifts and sent one crew out with climbing equipment to visually inspect the outer hull.

After the first day, Chakotay had a new duty schedule. The first week, everyone was on duty, the second week shore leave started. Everyone was scheduled for 10 days off. The shore leave assignments took the crew members' job into consideration so the mining crews had the very last rotation while the crews assigned to build the control systems were off first. Tom and B'Elanna were scheduled for the first rotation. Carey could handle the standard repairs for their vacation. Tom had split duty again, half his time on sickbay duty and the other half as Chakotay assistant. *Two disapproving bosses at once, what joy!* Tom thought, *It should be just like being home with my Dad.*

Harry and Seven had the third rotation. Seven had protested that she didn't need shore leave but Harry had beat her to Chakotay. Chakotay sent Seven to Lena for a talk.

~~~

"I don't need shore leave!" Seven stated emphatically.

"Do you know what shore leave is?" Lena asked.

"It is when you have no duty to preform." Seven answered.

"It is a time when you can choice your own project. If you want to crawl through jeffries tubes, moving your alcove into your new quarters, you can. If you want to spend all day with Harry, you can. If you want to sit in the sun and read a padd, you can. It's a time when you set you own pace," Lena explained.

"Why?"

"A change of pace allows a person to relax and take care or their own needs. Decide if you want to have the quarters; I know that you are tired of sleeping on my sofa." Lena told her.

"If I decide to more the alcove that will require 16 hours of work. What should I do with the other days?" Seven asked.

"Move in, decorate your quarters, spend time with Harry, baby sit the boys, go swimming, read a novel, and lots of other things. What do you like doing when your not on duty?" Lena asked.

"I liked the race that Harry took me to. It was stimulating. I like playing the boys. I like playing Parsee squares with Harry, Tom and B'Elanna," Seven stated.

"Why don't you go and ask Harry what he is planning. I'm sure that he will have some activities that you will want to participate in." Lena suggested.

"If I ask him to assist me in moving the alcove, do you think he will help?"

"Probably, he wants you to be happy," Lena replied. Sending Seven off to do personal engineering during her vacation didn't seem like the best way to handle her reluctance but it would benefit her in so many ways. Then again, it might ease her into creating her own projects and Harry would help create other recreational projects.

~~~

To say that time flew would be a misnomer. Twelve hour shifts, four days on, three days off was a killer schedule but all the projects were on schedule. Tom and B'Elanna were actually happy about the shifts. They had sixteen days off. They had help with the schedule and arranged for their extra long vacation.

Tom's favorite activity the first two days was having B'Elanna cover him from head to toe with sun block, take a picnic, pillow and padd out for the afternoon. Sunning, sleeping, and relaxing was his entire agenda. They would head back to the ship after sunset. B'Elanna loved the quiet time but wasn't surprised that once Tom was rested, he became restless.

The third night was one of the most memorable of their lives. Tom and B'Elanna started the evening was a private dinner. Tom had deliberate set a romantic mood. He was very nervous, something that B'Elanna hadn't seen in months.

"Tom, what's wrong?" B'Elanna asked.

"Nothing's wrong." Tom answered, "Have you heard the latest hot new gossip. Harry is going to help Seven set-up her own quarters, right next door to his. I wonder how Lena set that up."

"I know about it but you can't change the conversion like that. Why are you so nervous?" B'Elanna demanded.

"If you must know, I want you to marry me." Tom blurted out. It wasn't the most romantic way to asked, more of a statement but his nerves and her pushing had pushed him over the edge. He felt like he had just put his foot in his mouth, up the knee.

"What are you offering?" B'Elanna asked, trying to cover her shock.

"Love, devotion. The only way I will ever leave you is death. I will never willingly leave you. I want you to be with me forever." Tom answered. He knew of her past and her fear of commitment, everyone that should have been there for her had abandoned her. Her father abandonment was physical while her mothers had been emotional.

"Even back on earth, with your family?" B'Elanna asked.

"Anywhere, anytime. You are most important person of my life. Even if we don't get married, you will still be the most important person. Remember, according to Klingon tradition, we are mated for life. When we started all this, I knew that it was for life--I WANT it to be for LIFE," Tom replied.

While he was talking, she started pacing the room. He sounded so sincere but . . . She couldn't finish the idea. This was one of her highest hopes and worse nightmares at the same time. She wanted commitment and according to Klingon tradition they were committed. What was funny, was that Tom took that commitment more seriously then she did. His last words brought tears to her eyes.

B'Elanna walked over to the chair and sat. "I don't remember hearing you ask me anything. I remember a statement but no question."

Tom smiled. He stood, walked over to B'Elanna and the kneeled in front of her. He took her hands in his and started, "My darling, please marry me?"

"Yes," was her simple reply.

He pulled out a small ring case from his pocket, opened it and slipped the ring onto her finger. It was a simple band with two stones, a ruby and a opal. She hugged him very tight and didn't let go until morning.

~~~

They meet with Harry for lunch. Tom took the lead, "Harry, I find my self in need of a best man. Are you interested?"

Harry choked on his food, gasping, "That is not funny."

"I'm not joking," Tom replied.

"When is the wedding?" Harry asked, still not convinced that this wasn't a practical joke.

"We haven't set a date yet. We want to get married during a slow time but who knows. We have decided after the shuttle leaves, beyond that, we have no idea. We haven't even been to the Captain yet." B'Elanna answered. "After you say yes, we are going to the Captain. Give us an hour before spreading the news."

The light dawned, this is real. They are finally doing what everyone on Voyager had expected them to do--get married. Harry wondered how long it would take for her to kick out Tom at least over night. Harry smiled, "YES!"

The meeting with the Captain was even easier then they hoped. Harry had fears of a practical joke, the Captain knew that they wouldn't try that on her. The Captain first reaction was surprise but not really shock. Anyone that knew these two knew they were both good together and good for each other.

B'Elanna went in search of Chakotay. She didn't want him to learn it from someone else.

Harry had given them the hour, exactly 60 minutes, as they requested. Then he "accidentally" made a ship wide announcement. Due to the large number of people congratulating them, they went on a nice long picnic for dinner. They hoped that the newness would wear off quickly and something else would grab their attention. They were half right, instead of being flooded with people, they had a constant trickle. It was much easier to deal with. The work schedule helped keep things under control.

~~~

The vacation was cut two days short. Tom and B'Elanna were on skiing on the holodeck. B'Elanna demanded that it be water skiing. She knows that water was softer to fall in than show and it didn't have any trees for him to hit.

Tom received an urgent call from Doc. The molding crew and the refining crews were working on the first set structural supports. One of the forms had broken lose and fell onto two crew members. Another crewman was burned while stopping the equipment from pouring liquid metal on the others.

The sick bay was packed with people and equipment. All three were in critical condition. Tom and the Doctor had no choice but to try out the Paris-seven biobeds stasis unit. If they tried to save all three at once than they would loss at least one if not all of them. They choice Bridges, the burn victim, to go into stasis, he was awake and in sever pain.

Tom set up the stasis unit and turned to his other patients, Baytart. Broken bones, internal bleeding and shock were the start diagnostic. Tom did some thing then that he never dreamed he would have to do. He did surgery solo. The Doc was busy with the other patient, Keith Williams, and couldn't assist. Tom had done this on the holodeck in simulations but to have to actually do it was frightening. Tom's logic was, If I don't do anything, he will die. If I do it, he should live. Scared, and uncertain, Tom started doing surgery. Tom, the naive fool that he was, thought that he would start with a small operation, removing a wort or something, not repairing traumatic injuries. Tom mentally got out a text book and followed the set procedures.

Three hours later, he finished his operation. The internal injuries were repaired, the shock was dealt with but he still had bones to regenerate. He had to do another operation on the left leg. The bones in the lower leg were crushed to the point that Tom wasn't sure which piece went to which bone. He carefully installed rods and built the bones around them. The rods would slowly be destroyed as the bone built it new matrices.

Five hours from the time of the accident, Tom could say that he first operation was a total success. The patient's vital signs were good and he had awakened.

Tom rested. He knew that the both he and the Doc would have to work on Bridges if he was going to have any chance of survival. Tom checked Bridges and determined that they would have at least 6 hours of work to do to put him back together. The bed was doing its job. It was keeping him alive. Tom had already started assessed the instruments that he would need for the operation.

Doc was just finishing up on Keith. Seven had accompanied Lena to sickbay and then dragged her out when Lena lost her composure. Keith had similar injuries to Baytart's but was trapped under the mold longer. He was still in serous condition was expected to make a full recovery. When Keith showed signs of waking, Doc called Lena. The Doc only let her stay for ten minutes.

On her way out, Tom asked, "How long have you been married?"

Lena smiled, "Thirteen years."

Tom was surprised, "A child bride?"

"I was nineteen and he was twenty-one. We got married three weeks after he graduated from the academy. I still had a year to go. The first year we were married. I bunked with my sister in the dorms." She said as she left, almost too received for words that Keith was going to recover. She smiled, remembering happier times and her small sons.

Tom replicated a cup of coffee. He was sitting at the doctor's desk, writing the report on Baytart, when the Captain came in. Doc had called her as soon as Williams and Baytart had awakened. Doc felt that Janeway would want to know.

"Gentlemen, you do great work." She congratulated both Tom and the Doctor.

"Thank you Captain. Would you like a complete report on their injuries and treatment?" The Chief Medical Officer asked.

"No, Doctor. Send the reports to me in the morning. Why haven't you started healing Bridges yet?"

"Frankly, because to try and treat all at once would have guaranteed that at least one would die. Mr. Bridges was the worst case and in the most danger of dying. That made him the best candidate for the stasis unit. We will have to carefully take him out of stasis, repairing his injuries as we go." The Doctor then turned to Tom, "Mr. Paris, We need to schedule him for treatment tomorrow morning."

"I'll be here. B'Elanna will be worried about me if I don't get home soon." Tom answered. "Doc, Baytart is stable, You need to watch him for liver function. I did a lot of repairs on it. According to the readings, I should be able to take him off liver support in twenty-four hours. It needs to be watched. Livers are notorious for being unpredictable. If the liver function doesn't recover, we may have to grow him a new one. Call me if the readings change."

"Fine. Did you chart everything you had to do to Mr. Baytart?" The Chief Medical Officer asked.

"Yea. It's all there. I also had it recorded, so that you can review it. The beam put several large pieces of rib into his lungs, diaphragm, stomach, and liver. According to witnesses he was on top of the beam and beat it to the ground, just in time for it to fall on top of him." Tom started for the door. "Don't forget to report Keith's condition to Lena. She'll be worried."

Tom left.

The Captain turned to the Doctor. "What did he do today?"

"He did trauma surgery. I'll have to review the recordings before I can tell you exactly what procedures, but the injuries he described were life threatening. I will include this in Tom's instructional file," The Doctor stated.

"Doctor, was he qualified to do what he did?" The Captain asked. She knew that Tom had progressed in the almost two years since they had last Kes but surgery? That sounded like major advances to her.

"If he was in a normal medical program, no. However, I have allowed him to preform any task that he has passed but the written and practical tests. He was about 90% ready for the task he did today. Rebuilding livers are difficult at the best of times and he hasn't had to do one before in simulations. That is why he is so worried about the liver function," the doctor explained. He was actually quite pleased with both Tom's progress and his abilities. He jumped in and did what had to be done.

"As long as when we get to the alpha quadrant, he isn't charged with practicing Medicine without a licence," she joked.

"By the time we get to the alpha quadrant, he will have passed the board exams and will be licenced." The Chief Medical Officer stated.

The Captain shrugged and left sickbay. She was going to have two Doctors on board very soon. The only problem was finding them another assistant. A job that everyone has ducked or refused in the past.

~~~

The next day Tom and Doc spent putting Bridges back together. Baytart's liver was functioning normally, Tom rebuilding had worked. Tom was back at the doctor's desk writing his doctor notes and drinking coffee.

"Mr. Paris," The Doctor spoke officially, "I believe that you have passed your trauma surgical practical exam. Your work with Baytart and Bridges was excellent."

"Doc, I really wish that this hadn't happened," Tom stated.

"Accidents happen. Your job is to put people back together afterwards. Also, to see to their other medical needs. You're next area of study will be neurosurgery. That is the last area that you will be studying before your final exams."

"Final exams?" Tom asked, "I thought that I had been taking exams and tests all along."

"You have, but to became a doctor, you will have a few more exams." The doctor stated.

Tom didn't know wether to laugh or cry. Thomas Eugene Paris, MD had a very strange ring to it but . . . it might impress B'Elanna's mom.

~~~

Life returned to normal for Tom and B'Elanna. All three patients spent five days in sickbay. Tom spent his shifts in sickbay alternately between patient care, reading medical texts and playing with the engineering simulation. He was still trying to find the configuration that would allow longer slip stream jumps. Of course, every engineer on the ship was also looking for what was turning out to be the "holy grail." Elusive and impossible to find just about covered the solution. One configuration looked promising so he forwarded it to B'Elanna for consideration.

B'Elanna had commented that it might not be just one quick fix solution but a set of smaller fixes. A little fix here, an adjustment there, a few new consonants over there, added together would make Voyager a fully capable slipstream vessel.

The construction on the on the shuttle was progressing quickly. Since the crews weren't working in the small confined space of the shuttle bays or in space itself, the work moved much faster than anticipated. So far Chakotay was three months behind in his report writing and construction was two months ahead of schedule. A first in the annals of Starfleet, a ship ahead of schedule and they were determined to keep it that way. If they continued at their current rate, they would have the entire ship completed within two months. B'Elanna already had a crew of her engineers building the main components of the propulsion system.

Seven spent most of her time working on the shuttle. The outer shell was completed in the first three weeks. Seven learned a new skill, WELDING. She learned to hang from a scaffolding and weld the inter hull to the structural support system. Some areas were bolted in position while others were welded. The construction was complicated but Seven approved of the orderly way that all the work was done.

She and Harry's vacation started in a most unusual way. They spent the first day crawling through Jefferies tubes, moving Seven's Borg alcove. The Captain had approved the project after Lena had talked her into it. Lena reasoning was simple; she wanted her sofa back and Seven needed her own space. Lena had talked Harry into trading days, Seven choice the activity on one day, he would choice the activity the next.

"Is it operating properly?" Harry asked. He had just spent 6 hours making power connection and was tired. He didn't know why jeffries tubes were so oppressive. He was always tired after spending a day in them.

"Yes," Seven stated. Harry dropped into the only chair in Seven's Spartanly furnished quarters. She had a bed and a chair. "How am I to 'decorate,' I believe that was Lena term, my quarters?"

"We start with the stuff you already have from the cargo bay. Your clothing, mementos and padds will fill some of the space. Then we can go looking through the household stuff in storage. I know that Tom's old sofa is in storage and his chairs. You can pick out what you like. We'll add to that with other things, like pictures of Nick and Peter, maybe your mom and dad."

"One of you?" Seven asked.

"If you like," Harry answered, surprised that she would want a picture of him. Seven was constantly surprising him now. She was a strange mix of innocents, ignorance, knowledge and wisdom. She wanted physical closeness with him but not sex, yet. She loved the babies to distraction and could be distracted from almost any task when someone asked about them. She knows so much about space and ships but nothing about courtship.

"Yes," Seven replied simply.

Harry smiled. "Since we are done with the alcove, can my day start right now?"

"What are you planning?" she answered, uncertain.

"My plan for tonight is simple, dinner, a walk at sunset and practicing my clarinet on the canyon rim. Want to join me?"

She smiled, "Yes."

Dinner in the mess hall was loud and less than tasty. Neelix had mix Leola Root with a local tuber. The result--a neon orange paste that tasted like unspiced tofu. Although Seven usually considered taste irrelevant that was horrible. They opted to pass on dinner in the mess hall, retreating to Harry's quarters, they replicated chef salads for dinner.

"What are those black things called?" Seven asked.

"Black olives," Harry told her.

"Doesn't Tom put these on pizza?"

"Yes, along with a lot of other toppings." Harry joked, "Why the sudden interest?"

"I do not like olives on pizza but in the salad they are good. I do not understand why the same food would have different tastes." Seven stated, clearly expecting him to be able to explain it to her.

"In this case, it's simple, the temperature difference between the cold salad and the hot pizza. Also, on pizza, they are mixed into sauce and the other toppings." Harry was extremely pleased, Seven was starting to ignore the part of her that yells irrelevantly about all the little joys of life.

She was starting to have definite preferences in food, clothing, and recreational activities. She hated leola root but loved chocolate chip cookies. The wardrobe that she picked for herself included jeans, long flowing skirts and oversized shirts. She found the joys of oversized shirts by "borrowing" one of his old shirts during their graduate touching lessons period. She still hadn't returned it. It was so large that the short sleeves came down to her forearms. She loved rock climbing, volley ball, and tennis, but hated water skiing.

They finished eating and Harry grabbed his instrument for a small concert on the canyon rim. The rim wasn't the private place Harry would have liked it to be. Many people had found the scenery from the rim breath taking. They had even created a path. Harry picked a lovely spot with a great view. The canyon framed Voyager and the sunset. He sat, put together the clarinet and ran the scales.

He thought for a few minutes, trying to find the perfect music for the setting. He smiled and started playing. The music raise and fell, it was a beautiful haunting melody.

She was surprised when he stopped. "What was that? You never played that one for me before."

"Its title is the simply 'Concerto for Clarinet' by Mozart." Harry told her, trying to cover the fact that the seven minutes of playing leave him slightly winded. He had to do more playing or more cardiovascular workouts. He was out of shape for giving concerts. He looked around and found several crew members hovering around, enjoying the view and music. He saw the Captain walking with Chakotay.

Harry picked up his clarinet again. He started playing a beautiful melody. He had heard the song during their trip to 1996 and fell in love with it. It was a emotional piece called "When I fell in Love."

He glanced over to when the Captain and Chakotay were standing. They were together but weren't actually holding hands. Harry still couldn't figure it out. Were they involved or were they just great friends that enjoyed each other company. He did know that Chakotay was going crazy trying to keep up with the construction. With the construction preceding so quickly, he was so far behind with his reports that Tom actually started 'Co- writing' them. What this really meant was that Tom wrote them, Chakotay read them, usually made a few additions, and put both names on the reports Considering how much Tom hated writing reports, that was the most telling development. Tom was working to get the documentation up to date. The first mission could be delayed by the documentation, something that they did not want to happen.

Harry finished the second piece and started to take apart the clarinet. It was then that he heard applause. He stood up and jokingly took a bow. "Thank you, all," he stated and quickly sat.

The most unexpected reaction was from Seven, she moved over to him and kissed him in full view of everyone. Harry returned the kiss until he again heard applause. Harry blushed, stood and pulled Seven to her feet. "I believe that we can find a quieter spot to continue this."

"My quarters?" Seven suggested

"Sounds good to me."

"What is your plan for tomorrow?" Seven asked. She knew that she had promised to do what every he wanted tomorrow, besides his activities for tonight had been wonderful.

"I was thinking of a picnic lunch, followed by a swim in the river, and meeting Tom and B'Elanna for dinner. I don't know about after dinner." Harry told her.

"I do not have appropriate clothing for swimming." Seven stated, concerned that she would be out of place.

"Have you ever heard the term 'skinny dipping'?" Harry asked, with a lustful smile on his face.

"Skinny dipping is when someone goes swimming without any clothing, naked." she stated, then she thought for a few moments, "Is it your intention to see me without my clothing?"

"Whatever gave you that idea?" Harry asked in his best impression of Tom's phony innocent, hurt voice.

"You suggested an activity . . . Are you trying to be funny?" Seven asked.

"Sorry, but you did walk right into it. Skinny dipping is best done on the holodeck with privacy locks in place. I would love to get naked with you, any time you suggest as long as it not in public." Harry replied.

Seven did not reply but took his hand and lead him back to Voyager and her quarters. Seven wanted to spend the first night in her new quarters with Harry.

They spent the next day picnicking and swimming. Lena was at the river with the boys and her camera. She took pictures of the boys, Harry and Seven. Lena review the pictures that night and replicated two of the best, one was of Seven holding both boys and the other was of Harry laughing at the babies antics. She gave them to Seven to help her decorate her new quarters.

The third day they rummaged through the multiple storage areas, looking for just the right items. She found a sofa, two chairs and a display case that she liked. Lena was helpful and beamed the furniture to Sevens quarters and sent a crew to install it. Furniture on space ships wasn't just placed but bolted down with cushions valcroed on and smaller items like clocks held in place by magnets. Harry again planned the evening.

The fifth day of their vacation started out well but became emotionally charged. The Captain had made an announcement of the first crew to go back to the alpha quadrant on the first mission, Tuvok, Harry, Carey, Hamilton, Rollins and Vorik. The Captain made her choice according to whom she could spare and who could get the most work done while in the alpha quadrant.

Seven abstractly knew why Janeway had picked Harry for the trip. He knew all the systems and could think quickly to prevent a crisis. On the emotional level, Seven didn't know what to feel. He was leaving her, even thru he said that he would be back he was still leaving her new collective. This was most distressing. She had no difficulties with Tuvok leaving but then he didn't belong to her. Harry belonged to her. He was part of her new collective. She had been separated from one collective and was scared that her new collective would be destroyed. When Harry was unable to reassure her, he called Lena for help. After two hours Lena called the Captain. Janeway was finally able to reassure Seven.

Seven needed a project that would keep her bossy and her mind off Harry's leaving for the afternoon. The project was researching the legal situation that Voyager and her crew would face. The research was fruitful. They found out several precedents that made the legal battles ahead easier.

Garron had no legal problems, according to Starfleet law, he was a minor and all his crimes would be handled in juvenile courts on his home world before he turned 21. He could not be tried for any crime he had preformed before his 18th birthday. His 22st birthday was in three months.

Tom's legal problems were only a problem if Starfleet decides to challenge his contract based on this role on Voyager. He was to be an observer and guide in the badlands not the chief helmsmen and later medical personnel. Command would have problems making that stick. However, the contract was specific about him following Janeway's orders. Although he had been creative about how to follow those orders over the years, he had followed them.

The Maquis legal problems were more difficult. Considering the new political situation in the alpha quadrant, they may be given a blanket amnesty. They were all considered terrorist, it might not happen. Chakotay problems were more complicated due to him leading the cell. Their best bet would be to hire a lawyer on earth and give Tuvok the ability to negotiate on behave of the Maquis crew.

Seven's status was much harder. She didn't have one. According to the law she was an adult, however she wasn't considered legally competent to make decisions. She needed either a guardian or a parent before Seven reached the alpha quadrant to provide the best protection.

At 17:45, Lena announced, "Its dinner time. Anyone want to go to the mess hall and guess what's for dinner?"

"I can't believe it's that late." The Captain stated.

"Seven to Kim," Seven called

"Kim."

"I had been informed that it is dinner time. Will you be joining us?" Seven asked.

"Sure. I'm standing in line now, how many spaces should I hold?" Harry asked.

"Lena's table, we will be bringing the babies with us." Seven stated. Lena's usual table was large, sitting eight with two high chairs at one end. Dinner time was one of Lena busiest casual counseling times. She'd invite anyone that was feeling lonely or homesick to her table for a family dinner, "Robeshaw style." A reminder that anyone at her dinner table was now a member of her family.

Lena carried Pete and Seven carried Nick into the mess hall. Harry called them over, "I'll watch the boys while you get your trays. Don't take any of the yellow stuff. It looks like sweet potatoes but it tastes like corn starch with an unidentifiably weird after taste."

"Thank you for your recommendations, Mr. Kim," the Captain replayed seriously. Although she was a more adventurous eater than Tom Paris was, a little warning about the worst of the worst was always appreciated. All three women went over getting their dinner trays.

Harry gave each boy a cracker. Nick turned his into microscopic crumbs before Lena got back to the table. He mixed in a little liquid from his bottle and made a paste that he gleefully tried to give to everyone who passed. Harry watched this and was thinking, *this kid spends too much time in the mess hall, his' imitating Neelix. * The horrible part was that Nick was covered from head to toe with his paste before his mom could get back with her dinner. Peter was neater, kind of, he was gnawing on the cracker, making an attempt at eating. Harry was torn, do you laugh at the mess or do you grab a cloth and try and hide the mess from his parents? Harry opted for laughter.

Neelix had put aside a supple of unspiced apple sauce that the Doctor had approved of for the babies. Last week, Neelix had accidentally left a test batch out and the crew had eaten all of it. He could not figure out why they would want to eat the plain baby food over his Telaxian Casserole. Lena went into the kitchen to get the apple sauce for the boys.

She was the last one back to the table. Seven and the Captain returned and Tuvok joined them.

"Tuvok, you would be surprised by our research this afternoon. We were looking into the legal database and found a few new and interesting facts." The Captain started.

"What interested you?" Tuvok asked.

"Garron doesn't have any problems, He was a minor at the time of the crimes and federation law said that he must be prosecuted before he turned 21 for any crimes committed before his 18th birthday. He's free. Tom Paris could only have problems if the rehab committee pushes the issue. He was paroled to me with the condition that he follow orders." The Captain stated.

"You believe that Mr. Paris followed orders?" Tuvok asked, if he was human, she would have accused him of joking with her.

"I believe that Mr. Paris has almost always done what he believed was best for the ship. Also, he was assigned to sick bay as an assistant. His work there went well beyond the call of duty. He deserves for these old mistakes to be left in the past." The Captain explained. She knew that Tuvok actually did approve of Paris development.

"I agree with your logic." Tuvok approved.

"The hard part is the Maquis status and Seven's. Seven's problems are complicated. The only out that we can find is either adoption or an appointed guardian."

"Wouldn't marriage solve the problems?" Harry asked.

"No. Marriage is a legal contract. Anyone that wanted control of her could argue that she is not legally competent to make that contract. They could argue that you have your own agenda and are not protecting her best interests. If they won, they would dissolve the marriage. We need something that is harder to break. A parent would be the best solution." Janeway explained. "Seven, who do want to adopt you?"

"Ensign Kim." Seven answered.

"Sorry. No. Adoption is a legal relationship between an older person and a younger person. I'm younger than you are by three months. I don't qualify," Harry stated. "Remember the letter you wrote stating who you thought that take care of your interest. You can choose anyone on that list except me. That leaves Captain Janeway, Lena Williams or Tuvok."

"The logical choices would be between Lt. Williams or Captain Janeway." Tuvok stated, disqualifying himself. "Since a human judge on earth will be proceeding, a Vulcan parent would not be their first choice."

"Seven, you may have to think about this for a while. There are pros and cons to each choice. The pros to picking Me and Keith are that you would be the boys' sister. Another pro is that I have an extremely large extended family that will be there when you need help. The con is that we plan to take at least a two year sabbatical from Starfleet after we return. I want the boys to get to know some of their cousins. The legal adoption means that you will have to spend those two years with us on my home world. After that you should be able safe enough to make other choices." Lena paused for a quick breath and continued.

"The pros for the Captain are different. You can serve on any of her ships without joining Starfleet. She has more political clout and her adoption would be less likely to be challenged. She can also request Harry at her assignment so you could be with him, if you want. The cons are that you and her have had difficulties in the past. Also, if you have to follow her to her assignments rather than chousing your own for a few years or find a situation where you are protected." Lena paused to catch her breath and take a few bites of food. "You don't have to decided tonight. Talk it over with Harry, the Captain, and anyone else that you think might help you have to decide which set of pros and cons you can live with. This doesn't have to be decided until about two weeks before the first mission leaves."

"Lt. Williams," Tuvok addressed her. "I find this situation illogical. According to the federation legal experts, Seven is not capable of making legal decisions. However, you are asking her to make a decision on which legal actions will be taken."

"You know, as well as I do that she may not be experienced enough for legal contracts and would not be live on her own on a planet with a highly developed social system. She is capable of make decision on Voyager. The problems are not with her, they are with the people who would view her as a research subject rather than a person. The cases that were most disturbing were those of Lt. Commander Data of the 'Enterprise.' One scientist wanted to take apart his brain to try and figure out how it worked. Data won because Captain Jean-Luc Picard backed him. It could have gone the other way just as easy. Later Data built a daughter, who the same scientists tried to take. That case was won by Data based on parental rights. We want to avoid the unethical researchers at all costs. Our best defense is parental rights. This is our best course of action for long term protection. We want her to have a life that she can control."

"You seem to think that she will need long term protection." Tuvok stated.

"Very long term. I know several things. One adoption works or I wouldn't have 6 of my 9 siblings. I also know that the unethical are always willing to wait and pounce when you least expect them. If Seven is to have the life she wants later, we have to protect her now." Lena stated.

"I will review the cases you are basing your actions on." Tuvok replied.

"Good," the Captain pronounced, "Harry, what piece are you going to play on the rim tonight?"

"I don't know. I just look out at the sunset and play what every seems to fit the mood. One night it was Mozart, another night Debussy and yet another McCartney. Why are you asking, I'm not exactly putting on concerts out there." Harry commented.

"I rather liked you sunset concerts. You seem to capture the mood so well."The Captain complimented Harry. "I remember when your mother contacted me to ask if she could send your clarinet. I never dreamed that I would come to enjoy listening to it so much."

"Thank you." He strangled out while turning red.

"How many people come out to listen to him play the sun down," Lena asked.

"I know about thirty." Tuvok stated. "Several crew members have commented on how relaxing and enjoyable Mr. Kim's music is."

"I don't know how much I'm going to enjoy it now I know how many people are listening. Maybe some else would like to come and play." Harry suggested. He looked at Seven. Her face was a mask of confusion and concentration. She still hadn't recovered enough to make small talk. She was still working on that set of social skills.

Harry finished his dinner quickly and pulled Seven away before she could volunteer to give Nick and Pete their bath. Seven loved playing with the splashing babies but Harry was stuck mopping the floor after the three of them were done making their mess.

~~~

Later Tuvok reviewed the cases that Lena had sited. He thought that the Captain and Lena had over stated the case and that Seven would not need this layer of legal protection. After reading the cases and transcripts he knew why the Captain was so determined to protect Seven. Even thought the federation might mean well, they would not have Seven's best interest in mind in all situations.

He started reviewing the legal formalities involved with a Starfleet officer adopting a dependent. According to this research, the Captain was the best choice. She was an older, more established officer without children. The Williams were only 6 and 7 years older than Seven that could call attention to the fact that this was a legal maneuver. The young children would also be against them as some judges would see the adoption as a way for the Williams to obtain a free child care provider.

He planned to make his recommendations to the Captain the next morning.

~~~

Seven pushed the adoption to the back of her mind. She was just learning the joys of a vacation. Not having a duty station or a specific task to do at first was frightening but after spend so many days with Harry, she was beginning to enjoy it. They had been swimming, hiking, attended a concert of Vulcan sky music and decorated her quarters.

She had been skeptical about how he suggested they go about this task but the rooms were remarkably comfortable and livable. While they worked, Harry was always asking her opinion on how she want the room to look. The rooms were not like him but he stated that he was happy with the results. For a former Borg, Seven taste ran toward the light and airy. Light colored furniture and bedding, the posters on the walls were of hot-air balloons and a special corner was set-up for baby supplies. She called the balloons simple engineering and visually appealing. She had an eclectic mix of Borg, Federation, and delta quadrant items. Seven didn't realize just how much of herself that she had put into the her new quarters, a mix of the old and new but the new was given preference.

Harry found that he like spending as much time in her quarters as his own. He also knew what to give her for now on, Hot air balloons. He was planning to take her in a ride in one as soon as he figures out how it worked. The engineering was simple. The practice was difficult.

They still had four days of vacation. Seven was extremely nervous that day but didn't say why. She had also stopped by both Lena's and Sickbay without explanation. She had replicated his favorite dinner, or as she put it, "foods that you have statistically shown a preference for when replicating or have discussed most frequently in favorable terms."

Harry knew that she had made some sort of decision, about what he wasn't certain but that she had decided and was making plans was clear. It became clearer when Seven ordered Schubert to play in the background, lighted the candles and turned down the lights. They had been in this situation before, he was teaching her about courtship and how the "getting to know you" stage worked. She was not particularly impressed by the show of low lights, soft music and inefficient mating rituals. That was over 9 months ago.

"You know that I appreciate the dinner and your thoughtfulness but what is you planning?" Harry asked, hoping that it was something good.

"I believe that I am ready to take the next step in our relationship." Seven stated, hoping that the words did not show just how nervous she was about this development. She knew every inch of Harry's body for the touching lessons. She had worked hard on those lesson both because she was curious about touching but she also wanted to touch Harry. The finial step of sex had taken more than six months from the completion of the lessons. A part of her wanted him but a small part that she refused to admit to having had feared the emotional aspects of the act.

"Why?" Harry asked, they had spent too much time together for him not to know just how big a decision this was for her.

"The recent events have brought to my attention that all aspects of life must move forward."

Harry was confused. Did she want him because he may be leaving soon or for some other reason. "Why now?"

"I was confused by my emotions about this. Lena pointed out that events have 'delivered a swift kick to my complacency.' I had become so comfortable with how our lives had been progressing that I was unwilling to take a make any changes." Seven explained, slightly putout that he would be questioning this decision.

Harry smiled. He reached out, took her hand and kissed it. "I know what you are talking about; taking a big step can be both scary. If it fails, you have lost what you have but sometime you have just go for what you want. I know."

~~~

The shuttle construction was well ahead of schedule. The Captain had a difficult decision to make. *Does Voyager stay on the planet for an extra week or two and complete the major construction, or leave on schedule in five days?*

To help make the choice clearer she called a senior staff meeting for progress reports. The Captain also invited Lena Williams because she was still ship services chief and Carey who had been put in charge Voyager's modifications. B'Elanna was busy building the propulsion system for the shuttle. Seven and Harry had just returned from their vacation. She was working with B'Elanna on the shuttle and he was working with Carey on Voyager's modifications.

Tom came to the meeting with an arm full of padds. He had to get Chakotay to sign about half of them and a few the Captain signature was needed to complete the documentation. Tom had thought that the documentation on the design stage and mock-up stage was overwhelming but that was just a taste of the real "paper work" hell of construction. To date, he had written 28 reports, hounded others for 163 reports and had to force Chakotay to write 3. The design stage only had 28 reports total. Tom did feel slightly sorry for the poor officer who had to read all of it.

Tom had not realized when Chakotay took over the shuttle project that he would be dragged, kicking and screaming, back into his office writing reports. According to regulations, Chakotay should have written most of them but he just didn't have time. Directing construction on a project that was progressing at more than twice the schedule was time consuming. The calendar on Tom's wall was for 21 weeks. They had been on the planet for 9 weeks and the shuttle was currently on week 17. The next few weeks were of building the inside with the finery, like navigational controls and medical facilities. When the design team had created the construction schedule, they had planned for a few people to work full time and than others to come and help in their areas of expertise.

The Doctor had actually allowed Tom to write shuttle reports in sickbay because, "They keep you out of trouble." Tom wasn't fooled, he knew all the activities with the shuttle had even affected Doc. It was one of the few things that the crew talked about constantly. Tom had treated enough sore backs, pulled muscles and overworked joints to know that when not on shore leave, almost every crew member had worked on the shuttle. Naomi had even drawn pictures of the shuttle's progress. Although the art was not quite what Starfleet wanted in its document the drawing now graced the walls of Tom's office with a promise that she could put them up in the shuttle when it was complete.

The Captain called the meeting to order. "We are here to assess the progress we have made since landing. I'll start by going around the table. Carey?"

He sat up straighter, "We have been very lucky. The extra structural supports that we needed to make Voyager slipstream capable have been installed. We have been reviewing all the engineering suggestions to improve the slipstream configuration. We have found five suggestions that will lengthen the slipstream time. We are now safely up to 59 hours at slipstream with 100 hours recovery time. That should get us home roughly in about 75 to 80 days. We are still looking at some of the other suggestions, hoping that will improve the time in slipstream. The major modification that we can do to Voyager without the additional parts from the alpha quadrant is done. Our engines are in better shape now than anytime in the last three years."

"Williams?"

"Voyager hasn't been this clean since we were launched. The basic systems are operating at peak condition. My crews on the shuttle have installed the waste system and duct work for the life support system. We are currently working on manufacturing the furniture for the shuttle. We have items that we can transfer from Voyager to the shuttle." Lena replied.

"Paris?" the Captain continued the roll call.

"Sickbay or shuttle first?" Tom asked.

"Sickbay." She answered.

Tom scrambled for a padd, "Baytart, Williams and Bridges are all back on duty, completely recovered. We have treated more than 40 minor injuries. The worst was a broken arm. General health is good, a few vacation treatments, sunburn and other minor problems."

He started shuffling padds again, "The shuttle is well ahead of schedule. The documentation is about a two weeks behind and I'm working on bringing that end up to date. Most of this is reports that ether you or Chakotay have to sign. We are on week 17. Due to the nature of the rest of the construction, it will be slower. We are building internal components and that has slowed us down. The original plan had people building the components when other duties permitted but with the refining work, molding work and the accelerated shuttle construction hasn't allowed time for that part of the project."

"Why did you plan it like that?" She knew that the design team had created the construction schedule.

Harry answered, "We thought that we would be building on the fly. By having components built during slow times, we would have them completed just before they were needed. The shuttle has progressed so fast, it just hasn't gotten done."

"Are they being built right now?" She asked.

B'Elanna took this one. "Yes, with Voyager done, all the engineering crews but, a skeleton crew, have been working on a shuttle related projects. At the current rate, we will be done in two weeks. Installation will take longer."

She moved on, "Chakotay."

"The shuttles first major test starts tonight at 20:00. It's the hull pressurization test. We need to take it up to 4 atmospheres for 72 hours. If it passes, we can start installing the more delicate instruments." Chakotay reported, "If it passes this first test it should be completed in three weeks. If not, failure analysis could take a while."

"We are scheduled to leave in 5 days, how long will the shuttle construction take if we move the hull into the shuttle bay and leave?" She asked.

"The speed is related to the number of crew working on the project. Currently 100 people a day are working on the shuttle in some way or another. Next week, with the installation of the controls, only 20 people can work on it at a time. The dilemma of to stay or not is difficult. If we stay for 12 days, we will have the shuttle completed enough that just an engineering crew would be needed to finish. We have lots of volunteers who want to spend their off hours on the project." Chakotay reported.

"B'Elanna, do you have enough people to pull the crew that Chakotay needs to complete the scuttle after we get underway?" The Captain inquired.

"Considering that Voyager is in top condition, I can run short for a few weeks. He can pull the shuttle repair crew also. We have repaired everything that needed repair. Even the little annoying problems that we never had time for." B'Elanna answered.

"Have you been making work?" The Captain asked. She approved of good repair but not of making work just so crew members would have something to do.

"No, Everything that we did has been on a to do list. Some were very, very low priority but we had the time and materials to bring almost everything up to regulation level. I figured if we had the time and people that engineering should do what Ship's Services did. I took all the problems that had been reported, split my crew into teams and gave each team the list for one specific areas of Voyager. Murphy is even done cleaning the jeffries tubes. Seven weeks, a new record for cleaning 15 levels of Jeffries tubes. I did go a little over board and spent six months of engineering replicator rations for the component. I'm banking on our being in the alpha quadrant before I have to pay up." B'Elanna admitted.

"So if we leave in 12 days we will have the shuttle nearly complete then we will be able to continue and still have the personnel to run the other departments." The Captain summarized.

"Yes, Captain," Chakotay answered.

"We'll stay the extra days." She announced. "Tom when is the party?"

"What party?" He asked, trying his innocent act again, the one that hasn't worked on Janeway since the Badlands.

"The Successful pressure test party." She stated.

"In five days, starting at 1800 under the main canopy between Voyager and the shuttle." Tom paused and then changed tactics, "We really do have to name that shuttle. Everyone has been calling it 'Moby Dick.'"

"Yes, we do have to name the shuttle. Who's cooking for this party?" She pressed, not allowing his distraction tactic to work.

He finally gave up and spilled it, "It's an old fashion cook out. A few of us are going to grill hamburger and hot dogs, the corn crop is coming in so we thought of corn on the cob. The red tuber we found here tastes like white potatoes so I was hoping that Lena would make some potato salad . . . "

"Why?" The Captain asked.

"She's from a ag world. She can actually cook a verity of foods." Tom remarked.

Lena's notorious sense of humor took over, "Potato salad requires pound of tubers per person. Tom, are you volunteering to peal 70 pounds of tubers?"

"You know, fire baked tubers sound really good right now." Tom responded. "We were thinking of a green salad. Activities include volley ball and a soccer game, alpha shift against the other shifts. Anything else I should plan?" He asked. Tom knew that he was in trouble for planning the party without permission but actually. He didn't start it. The Doctor had suggested it. A great stress reliever and a way include people in the project even if you didn't get to work on the shuttle. He suddenly spoke again, "It was Doc's idea."

"Proceed. Start the party at 1400 so both shifts can attend." She ordered. It was a good idea. She was had only been guessing about the party but knowing Tom, one was in the works. He had parties at the end of each stage of development, why should this stage be any different. "Is that all?"

Tuvok spoke up, "Captain, I need to discuss Seven's status with you, Lt. Williams, Mr. Kim and Seven."

"Is that it?" She asked again. No one else responded. "Williams, Kim, Tuvok, stay, everyone else dismissed."

Harry tapped his combadge, "Kim to Seven."

"Seven." she responded.

"We need you in the senior staff briefing room." Harry told her.

"I will be there immediately." she stated

Tuvok handed out padds as they waited for Seven. She came in and set next to Harry.

Tuvok started, "I have been doing some future research based on the research that caused Captain Janeway and Lt. Williams so much concern. I admit that when you first presented the idea of adoption to me, I believed that you were over reacting to rather limited information. Upon reviewing the cases and other similar cases, I believe that adoption is the only long term protection that we can provide for Seven. I reviewed the adoption laws and have found some very interesting information."

He paused to pick up his padd, "The adoption laws are very specific about who can or cannot adopt. To make the adoption both legal and resistant to legal challenges, we must take several steps. The first is that although the Williams are willing, they are not the best choice. Some judges might see the adoption as either a legal maneuver or them trying to get free child care. Captain, you are the best choice."

The Captain looked at Seven and asked, "Could you handle the thought of becoming a Janeway?"

"Yes, Captain." Seven stated. She was now more scared than before. Tuvok thought that she might be in danger and he didn't make easy decisions nor was he emotionally scared by the cases. Tuvok's pure logic viewing her situation as dangerous was scary to Seven. Harry reached under the table and took her hand, squeezing reassuringly.

"I reviewed the cases and the adoption laws. No where on in the standard forms does it ask if the "Adoptee" is known by another name. Since only Seven's medical file lists both names and her work on other projects was "Seven" we may be able to omit the information about her Borg past. That is what Starfleet and others will be most interested in . . . "

Janeway interrupted him, "Are you suggesting that we lie on the forms?"

"Not lie, just answer the question in as literal fashion as possible. No where on the forms are the Borg mentioned, I therefor believe that they would not care to know this information." Tuvok answered. "The basic facts are that Seven's parents were killed in a Borg attack when she was six. She has no family on board or in the federation and Captain Janeway has taken particular interest in her care and development. The medical staff on Voyager believes that adoption is in her best interests."

Lena looked up from her padd, "What you are trying to say is if we can help the judge assume that Seven is a child, than we should allow that assumption to continue?" Tuvok nodded.

"As long as the judge is only reading the carefully written forms, he might miss her actual age, and assume that Seven was a child born on Voyagers travels and being raised by the Captain. That is my hope or a very friendly judge." Tuvok stated.

"The judge isn't a problem if we apply in San Francisco. Judge Magill Oglan practically rubber stamps adoptions if all the paperwork is in order and the parent to be is a Starfleet officer." Lena told them. "You might even take the adoption forms and reports to him and explain about the closeness of the crew since our kidnaping from the Badlands."

"This form requires us to attach a picture of the child. How do we get around that?" Harry chimed in.

"Take a picture of Seven with the Captain, Naomi, Pete and Nick. Let the person viewing the picture assume that Naomi is the adoptee and Seven was one of the adult watching the kids." Lena told him.

"Will Doc go for this bit of deception?" Harry asked.

"We'll ask. I didn't think that we would need to cover this much up. I thought that we just have to fill out the forms, not covertly fight Starfleet even before we made the first move." Lena stated.

The Captain tapped her combadge and called, "Janeway to the Doctor."

"Yes, Captain," he replied promptly.

"Can you come to the senior staff briefing room right now?" The Captain asked.

"Yes, Mr. Paris is on duty. I'm on my way." He answered and cut the line.

Harry was setting there with a strange, bewildered look on his face, "What's wrong, Harry?" The Captain asked.

"The implications are just sinking in. I've been dating the Captain's daughter for 18 months." Harry stated. "Seven had just become a Starfleet royal, grandfather an admiral, mom a Captain, where does that leave me?"

"Right where you are," the Captain said. "This is mainly legal maneuvering. I will not try to start running her love life now."

Harry laughed, "If we get married, do I call you Mama, or Ma'am?

"You get to clean Jefferies tubes for either one." She stated but smiled. The joke had been lame but he was trying to break the tension.

The Doctor came in and addressed the Captain. "You wanted to see me?"

"Are you aware of Seven rather precarious legal position?" The Captain asked.

"Yes, Mr. Paris told me that Seven was to be adopted by a fellow crew member." The Doc replied.

"To help the adoption along, we will need to be selective about what is in the reports. We believe that she would be better protected if the court believes her to be a child rather than a former Borg." The Captain told him.

"Are you suggesting lying?" The doctor demanded to know.

"We are not going to lie. We are going to answer each and every question as literally as possible. We will not offer any additional information. Surely you know that not everyone needs to know everything." The Captain pressed. "In this case, it will be a preventive measure. Think how months or years of being intensely studied could limit Seven's abilities to interact with people and lead the life that she wants to have."

"Seven will need intensive therapy when we reach the alpha quadrant to help her adjust." The doctor protested.

"We know. She knows it. She will get all the help that she needs. Our goal is for us to have control over her future rather than Starfleet command. Unethical people tend to use turn institutions against their victims. We want to create a situation where the people that have her best interesting in mind will be able to prevent the unethical from gaining control." Janeway reasoned.

The doctor wavered slightly, "I will need to review the forms that are required before I can support this course of action."

"Of course, I'll also send down some other relevant information for you to read." Lena told him. She had just the right mix of cases of institutional neglect, unethical scientists, and legal Flin-flummery to help him realize that we needed to protect Seven.

"Lena," the Captain started, "You are in charge of the forms as the temporary ship's councilor. Make sure that all the forms are completed correctly. No lies, they could nullify to adoption."

"I'll see to it," Lena answered.

"Anything else?" Janeway asked. No one spoke up. "Then, dismissed."

~~~

The Doctor was upset by the information he received from Lena. "Mr. Paris."

"What, Doc?" Tom answered.

"I have been reviewing the information that Lt. Williams sent me. Is it true that Starfleet has studied rather than helped some of it dependants?"

"Doc, Starfleet is made up of people and rules. Sometimes people twist the rules to suit their own ends." Tom answered. He didn't know what was in the files but he did know that even Starfleet had it dark side.

"The adoption forms do not ask the adoptee age. It just wants to know about handicaps and general physical health. If I only answer the question as asked then Seven will appear to be a child. But if I am not totally comfortable with this deception." The doctor explained.

Tom set in the chair across from the doctor. "The Captain doesn't want you to lie. She wants us to tell them exactly what they ask about. I can tell you that being on the wrong side of Starfleet is dangerous. Seven is unique with her knowledge of the Borg. The intelligence section of Starfleet would love to have her in their control so that they could gain every scrape of information. I think that they might help her, but it would be selective at best."

"Are you saying that they would question Seven for weeks on end?"

"More like years. She had access to a multitude of Borg secrets. They would want them all." Tom assured him.

"What do you think is best for Seven?" The Doctor asked. He was now convinced that he was not being manipulated and the danger to Seven's physical and mental health would be put in jeopardy.

"The adoption, a few years with the Captain and Harry. Counseling for the adjustment problems." Tom answered. "Long term, likely marriage to Harry. He has expressed interest in marriage and she has expressed an interest in children. Harry is way too conventual to father children out of wedlock."

"Doesn't that rather limit her future?" The doctor asked.

"Only if they wanted it limited. She is smart, has vast technical knowledge and he is a Starfleet officer. If they ever left Starfleet they could do whatever they want." Tom dismissed the idea that Harry would limit Seven's development. "I trust Harry with my life. I trust the Captain and Tuvok to do what they have to protect this crew from danger. No matter what the source of danger."

The Chief Medical Officer nodded, finally understanding why the deception was needed. This was rather like dealing with a first contact situation. Information was valuable and too much could be very dangerous, better to limit the information made available until the intentions were known. "I will follow the Captain's suggest that such forms should be taken extremely literally."

Tom smiled, "Seven will appreciate this. Just think of as payback for your refusing to give up the new biobed."

"Tom, why would I allow a valuable piece of equipment to be removed from Sickbay when we have the supplies to build another?"

"Hay. I'm not judging you. I know what it can do, but when you talked Seven into building it, you did promise to send it on the shuttle." Tom reminded him.

The Doc clearly remembered the promise but he also remembered what the bed had done for bridges. If he could, he would convert all the surgical beds to Paris-Seven beds. He looked up at Tom, "don't you have anything better to do?"

"Sure, I was just reading this great chapter on spinal cord injury repairs. I'm not sure but all the cases in the book seem to be related to trauma." Tom reported.

"Go back to your reading," the doctor ordered. He turned and started carefully reading and filling out the medical forms needed for Seven's adoption. Lena had left him several notes about what would help the adoption case. Don't talk about her nanoprobes, not to call her "Seven" but "Annika," spotlight Seven's emotional age rather than her physical age, don't give specifics about her height or weight, just says that they are within normal range for a person of her age and body type. With those few suggestions, the forms became very easy to fill out.

General information--name, birth date, biological parents names, adoptive parents name.

Physically--Health. No major illnesses or injuries in the last year.

Mentally: She is uncertain and easily frightened. Annika is emotional attached to Captain Janeway as a parental figure in the life. She is currently suffering from separation anxiety.

Socially: She has a small group of people that she feels comfortable socializing with but extremely large groups have frightened her in the past. She tends to be rebellious at times but Captain Janeway is very good at handling her at such times.

Favorite Activities: She loved playing with Nick and Peter Williams, age 8 months. Currently, she is enthraled by the babies. She also likes to play volley ball and tennis. She likes to learn new things in a unrestricted environment.

Lena had made out the mental health review for him to co-sign as Chief Medical Officer. The report was carefully written so that it talked about her having some emotional problems and may have later adjustment problems. Lena suggested that it was because Voyager was a small closed community and that "Annika" had no other experiences with large human communities.

The doctor was truly amazed that someone could only tell the truth and still present a much different picture than reality. Doc signed Lena report and returned the medical report.

Lena was surprised all of the reports that were required for the adoption was completed and returned in three days. The only addition that she needed to make was the photo. The problem was that Lena didn't have a good photo featuring Seven, Naomi, and Captain Janeway. That would be easy to fix at the pressure test party.

The shuttle had passed the pressure test and the engineering teams were working feverously. Janeway had made the announced that they had 11 days to work on the shuttle before they had to pack it in and move the shuttle to the shuttle bay for completion. The crews wanted to finish the shuttle on the 11th day and for it to fly itself off the planet. With that goal in mind, and the extra crew members that had wanted to help, the installation of equipment was preceding much faster than anyone could have anticipated.

Tom's pressure party was more of a success then he could have dreamed. The shuttle was to get its name that night. Neelix had put out a "shuttle naming suggestion" box. Harry was in charge of picking the four finalists. They were the Delta Clipper, Zephyr, Cochrane, and the Kes. The crew got one vote for their favorite.

The entire crew came to the party, just to vote and most stayed until after the music stopped at 23:00. The cook out idea worked and everyone relaxed and enjoyed. The old favorites were welcomed. Neelix was, as always, baffled by those alpha quadrant people that wanted to eat plain meat with burned spots with no spices, just that mild mustard, a variation on tomato sauce and onions.

Lena spent the evening taking pictures. She took the picture that she needed for the adoption and many others. Hopefully this would be the one of the great parties in Voyager's history. They were celebrating months of hard work and the very real hope of getting home. Lena was careful to take pictures of every crew member that came. Nick and Peter were showing off their newest accomplishment, pulling themselves to a stand position. Most of the crew took this as the babies wanting up. The boys were passes round long after they had drifted off to sleep.

The crew string quartet set up and followed Harry's tradition of playing down the sun. Tuvok even admitted that the evening was rewarding. The alpha shift vs. all comers soccer game was at best described as a killing. Alpha went down in flames in the first two minutes. They allowed twelve goals in the first twelve minutes. They made one goal the entire game. Tom explanation of why they lost so bad was that they were tired from the volley games earlier. Tom and Harry had won the tournament. They knew that if Seven and B'Elanna ever teamed up on them, they were dead.

The crew vote for the name was clear. The shuttle was to be named, "The Kes." Neelix made the announce the next day.

Harry had a few problems adjusting to Seven's adoption. He was sleeping with the Captain's daughter. On most ships he had heard of that wasn't just bad form, it could seriously harm an ensign's career. Also another factor was that he occasionally thought of the Captain as a mother figure, now he had to change that into a mother-in-law figure. He was spending more nights in her quarters than in his. It allowed Seven accesses to her alcove without leaving in the middle of the night, after all, that was why Lena had fought so long to get Seven her own quarters. Seven also seemed to see having her own quarters as some sort of rite of passage.

All four members of the design crew worked on the Kes. The new goal of having it finished by the time they left was starting to look attainable. The internal spaces were in need of Ship's Services. The only furniture on the shuttle was folding chairs. Tom, B'Elanna, Lena and Chakotay had a quick conference. Ship services teams would lay the flooring, install the computer integrated desks, and install the bathroom appliances but would not add the other furniture until the last three days. This actually made fitting the components together faster but it was an inconvenience. If you were tired, you got to set on the floor.

With crews working full out for ten days, the Kes was ready for furniture and final inspections. The Captain was amazed that they had actually finished before the unofficial deadline. Chakotay was again a month behind in his documentation. Tom had stopped harassing Chakotay to write the reports, preferring working on the Kes. When the Captain had announced the extra down time, Tom had dreams of enjoying a few more shore leave days. However, B'Elanna was always busy and to be truthful, so was he.

The planet had been wonderful. Voyager had lucked out to find a bountiful planet, well of the normal shipping lanes, to land on. They had enjoyed an almost un known period of peace. On the last day before departure The Captain held a naming ceremony and christened the new ship, The Kes.

The Captain's speech was moving, "This shuttle is to be known as the Kes. Our dear friend would have rejoiced that we were finally on the fast track to getting home. Her gifts that throw us clear of Borg space saved all our lived. I believe that this ship is a fitting memorial to Kes, who grow up so fast and left us far too soon."

The first real test of the Kes was to tractered off the planet's surface by Voyager. Tom was at the helm of the Kes in a full environmental suit, just in case something failed and it suddenly lost pressure. He had difficulties flying this way but both regulations and B'Elanna were adamant. The first run of a new ship required bulky space suits. After they had reached orbit, they stayed for twelve hours before Tom docked the Kes. It had passed it first space tests, it held together getting off the surface and it had docked with another ship.

It was the biggest shuttle in the bay. It was twice as big as the other shuttles. More testing had to be done with it but it was preforming as they had all dreamed.

The crew that was to make the first trip preformed most of the testing. The Kes passed it tests triumphantly. It usually preformed better than expectations.

Seven appreciated the need for training with the equipment and the need for testing. Her problems were that Harry spent too much of their limited time together away from her doing testing. Seven suddenly knew why B'Elanna hated it when Tom had duty on the bridge and sickbay on the same day.

She both welcomed and dreaded the day that the Kes was officially fully tested and ready for it trip to the alpha quadrant. Harry was scheduled for three days off as they prepared for the trip. He was looking forward to it, he hadn't spent much time with Seven since testing began. He had far too many memories of crawling into her bed after a 15 hour day and falling asleep.

End Construction Phase.

Next First Mission.

Hosting by WebRing.